Phil K. Jones aka An Ill-dressed Vagabond is one of the USA’s leading Holmes reviewers – here is his take on ‘A Study in Crimson‘.
“This is the second book in Molly Carr’s ‘Watson – Fanshaw Detective Agency’ series. It follows events in The Sign of Fear rather directly and continues in much the same vein. Again, Watson natters, Holmes is always out on some sort of business, Lestrade needs help and odd clients turn up in the strangest places (or is that strange clients in oddest places?).
It is difficult to be more specific as the author wanders from situation to situation in a random fashion. Evildoers rush in and take captives, innocents escape miraculously and the police are baffled with a great deal of regularity. Most new clients seem to lead to old crimes and very few people are what (or who!) they seem. For example, ‘the old Russian woman,’ cited in “The Musgrave Ritual,” is not really so old, is definitely a woman, and is STILL not who she seems to be.
The author continues in her casual attitude toward the Canon. It is hard to keep track of which printed tales actually happened, which were invented by Holmes and who was actually responsible for which crimes. At any given time, it is hard to keep track of which adventure is being investigated, one of the Canonical, but unreal tales or one of the Untold, but actual tales. The same uncertainty applies to persons. Black Gorgiano’s grandson wanders in from nowhere accompanied by The Pinkerton Detective, Mr. Leverton, neither of whom is what he seems to be. The Poirots, pere et fils, turn up with disturbing regularity, again, not whom they seem to be.
Old school chums, and some never known in ANY school, appear and disappear at inconvenient moments. Clients turn into criminals and, of course, criminals into clients. It is not always clear when these changes occur, but occur they do, even if only for a little while. Meanwhile, Mary and the Nipper soldier on while Watson huffs, puffs, worries, bets on the ponies and runs the odd errand for Holmes. Emily keeps bringing in new clients, some of whom are legitimate and Neville St. Clair seems to have gone straight. At least, he is no longer begging for a living, but what he is really doing is more a mystery than ever.
There is really no point in detailing the events, because I’m sure they will manage to change again before you see this review. Of course, the character set remains the same, or changes as the spirit(s?) move them. Scorecards are NOT provided so readers must make up their own lists. Please note that the Circus is not REALLY the best place to eliminate criminal pursuers and there IS a cave on Long Island, or there was.”