About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Elementary, She Read by Vicki Delany

Elementary, She Read by Vicki Delany – I love Gemma Doyle. From England she is tall, angular, quirky and possibly a distant relation of Arthur Conan Doyle. She is possessed of a keen intelligence, powerful observational skills and a precisely deductive mind. Were she to smoke a pipe and play the violin we would have a 21st Century Holmes. As it is she is a great new sleuth in the tradition of Sherlock Holmes.

The setting of Elementary, She Read is equally well done. Gemma is part owner and manager of the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium at 222 Baker Street in West London on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Through a connecting door is Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room providing sandwiches, pastries, coffee and tea to tourists and locals. They are so vivid I can see the shop and tea room and wish they were real. My next post will discuss the Bookshop and its connections in my mind to real life mystery bookstores.

Not all cross Atlantic transplants work but Emma fits very well into America. Maintaining her accent and British reserve she is perfect in the Emporium and the subsequent investigation. Knowledgeable but not fanatical about the Holmes canon, Gemma enjoys mysteries.

Jayne Wilson, pert and blonde, is Gemma’s best friend and is the manager / part owner of Mrs. Hudson’s.

Spring has arrived and the tourist season is building. On a lovely afternoon a bus full of touring bridge ladies arrive for tea and then to shop at the Emporium. After filling themselves at the Tea Room over 20 mature women descend upon the shop buying books and Sherlockania. Mugs, DVDs, posters, puzzles and other collectibles fly off the shelves.

Fully familiar with her inventory, “the computer is a functioning backup”, and obsessed with order, the books must be in alphabetical order, Gemma cannot abide the disorder on the shelves left by the ladies. Upon their departure:
      Shaking my head, I set about organizing them. A book with
      fading red leather binding had been shoved in the middle of the
      bottom shelf. I could tell instantly it didn’t belong there. That
      sort of leather binding should be with the historic books and
      magazines, not the current ones. I pulled it out. It had been
      slipped into a clear plastic wrapping. The binding was Morocco
      leather, adorned with gilt flourishes. A Study in Scarlet was
      embossed in ornate gold cursive on the cover. Judging by the
      thickness, it was probably not a book but a bound magazine ….
      A cold sweat ran down the back of my neck….. Beeton’s
      Christmas Annual. 1887.

It appears to be an original of the first magazine featuring the first Holmes story. Such a magazine has a value in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

After running through her memory of the afternoon customers Gemma quickly deduces the magazine was left in the store by a nondescript older woman. Seeking both to return the magazine and find out why it was left Gemma tracks the woman to a local hotel and finds her murdered in her room.

Gemma offers her analytical and deductive skills to the lead detective, Ryan Ashburton. The tall, dark and handsome officer declines the offer. While their contact is subdued it is clear to Jayne that Gemma and Ryan have been  a couple in the past.

Gemma can be irritating:

      …. I’ve been told on more than one occasion that some people
      don’t understand my attention to detail and thus misunderstand
      the conclusions I draw from it. I have tried to stop, but I might
      as well stop thinking.

In a brilliant example of how Sherlockian deductiveness interferes with personal relationships Gemma had agreed, a few years earlier, to marry Ryan before she had been asked. Gemma had explained to Ryan:

      “You’re wearing your best suit and a brand new tie, if I’m not
      mistaken. You’ve gone to the trouble of shaving after work
      which you normally don’t do. You’ve even polished your
      shoes. You have a touch of sweat on your brow but this room  
      isn’t hot. Somewhat to the contrary, I think. They’ve turned the
      air conditioning on too early. The bulge in your jacket pocket is
      the size and shape of a ring box. You gave the waiter an
      unobtrusive nod that had him grinning like a fool, and if I’m not
      mistaken, he’s bringing the champagne now, Veuve Clicquot,
      excellent choice.”

The proposal did not proceed.

In the book Gemma will carry on with her own investigation especially when the other lead detective, Louise Estrada, makes very clear that Gemma is her lead suspect. Gemma does not aid her circumstances when she points out to Detective Estrada the flawed reasoning of the officer in suspecting Gemma.

It is a great start to a new series. I have enjoyed Vicki’s books. Elementary, She Read is the best principally because I think Gemma is her best sleuth. The book will be released on March 14th and I expect it to be very successful. Gemma is a strong candidate for my favourite new sleuth of 2017.
Delany, Vicki -

     1.) Const. Molly Smith - (2013) - A Cold White Sun

     2.) Fiona MacGillivray - (2014) - Gold Web

     3.) Writing as Eva Gates the Lighthouse Library Series 
     with Lucy Richardson - (2014) -  By Book or by
     Crook and Bodie Island Lighthouse; (2015) - Women v. Men in
     Clothing Descriptions


  1. I really admire Vicki Delany's ability to work in different sub-genres, Bill. Gemma Doyle sounds like another great Delany protagonist, and that's great to know. And after all, how could you not love that bookshop?

  2. Margot: Thanks for the comment. More about my love of bookshops whether fictional or real life in my next post.

  3. I read one of her other series on your recommendation, Bill, and liked it very much. And this sounds even more to my taste.

  4. Moira: Thanks for the comment. Vicki is getting better with age.