St. Martin's, Aug 2003, 24.95, 360 pp.
In 1878 Arthur Conan Doyle studies medicine at the University of Edinburgh under the tutelage of Dr. Joseph Bell. However, Arthur particularly appreciates the deductive reasoning that his mentor brings to solving crimes by turning an investigation into a more scientific approach. Between his studies, the occasional detective work (see THE PATIENT'S EYES) and an intelligent female student, whom the professors treat with gender scorn, Arthur is able to somewhat put aside his family troubles.
However, the city is gripped with fear as a killer begins murdering women in brothels leaving behind strange clues such as neatly piled coins “paying” the fee perhaps. Bell believes a new type of culprit has surfaced. This is a clever individual with an obsession that leads him to most likely kill again. As the duo struggles to solve a case with an MO outside their normal methodology, Bell and Doyle try to invent a different approach still using deductive and inductive logic.
Doyle as a young man accompanied by his teacher are fun to follow while student Elspeth Scott provides more than a romantic interlude as the audience sees the disdain and prejudice the Victorian Era faculty and her peers bestow on her because of her gender. The historical look is fascinating as the reader observes Doyle before Holmes and Moriarty. However, unlike the first novel in this series, solving the mystery surprisingly is un-Holmes like especially in light of Bell recognizing a whole new category of homicide. Still David Pirie writes a solid tale, but not quite the par excellence of his previous book.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner