'Where did you get that sumptuous dress and what is that colour called? I am so out of touch, living in the wilds of Warwickshire.’
‘It came from a shop on Regent Street that was recommended to me by Mr Grice,’ I said. ‘The lady in the shop described it as dusty rose satin.’
‘What a clever name and how it complements your complexion. You do not call him Sidney?’
‘No,’ I said. ‘He is very correct.’
‘Then he is either a pompous ass or helplessly in love with you,’ she told me, ‘and, from the way you did not colour when you mentioned him, I should say the former. Oh, how disappointing. I had hoped he would have made you his mistress by now. How I could have entertained my tea-circle with that story. But do not worry, I shall anyway.’
The narrator, March Middleton, is assistant & ward to a personal (not private) detective called Sidney Grice, and is helping him to investigate a gruesome murder. The description of life in the poorer parts of 1880s London seems authentically nasty and dirty, and the author doesn’t hold back from showing unpleasant sights. But the book is very very funny. Grice, the Gower St Detective, and his relationship with Middleton, are obviously a kind of spoof on Sherlock Holmes, but the whole thing is clever, original and refreshing. It is plainly the first of an intended series, and one that should be good fun. The murder plot is a good puzzle and on the whole well-worked out (I had got half of it but still had a few questions…). The combination of elaborate plots, excellent dialogue and funny jokes is a very promising one.
The main picture, by George Henry, is called Mary in the Pink Dress and is from the Athenaeum website. It is probably more low-cut and partyish than March Middleton would have worn for a day-time meeting, but the colour and face seemed right.
Another Holmes pastiche got short shrift in this entry, though a Sherlock Holmes fancy dress party was much admired here. The real Sherlock Holmes is here.