Or more properly The Curious Affair of The Somnambulist and the Psychic Thief is the latest paperback from The Mysteries author Lisa Tuttle. As any fan of late Victorian melodrama has probably guessed Tuttle has taken us to the London of pea-soupers, Hansen cabs and consulting detectives, so familiar to the readers of Sherlock Holmes only she’s added a neat supernatural twist.
In keeping with the world of Holmes and Watson, Tuttle introduces us to our unlikely detective duo when the determinedly independent Miss Lane, having fallen out with Miss X, her former partner at the Psychical Society, who has been exposed as a fraudster, answers and advertisement for an assistant to a Mr Jasper Jesperson, consulting detective. Unlike Sherlock Holmes Mr Jesperson is only just starting out and he still lives with his mum who of course takes on the Mrs Hudson role.
In this, which I am hoping will be the first of their many adventures, Jesperson and Lane take the cases of a removal man who sleep walks every evening that he receives an anonymous telephone call and the mysterious disappearance of a psychic medium, little imagining that both cases could be linked nor the momentous event that both cases would lead up to.
As a big fan of the Great Detective I really liked this book. Tuttle draws us into Conan Doyle’s world of cluttered drawing rooms, bustling London streets and chilled foggy evenings without getting bogged down in the kind of fusty stodge that bedevils so many Holmes pastiche writers, which she then spices it up with a liberal dose of dark claustrophobic seances, strange psychic abilities and gooey ectoplasm. There is a nicely drawn cast of characters, complete with a truly vile villain and some comedy relief. Lane and Jesperson work really well together with Lane as the more realistic level-headed partner, but Jesperson is clearly no dullard either and it’s really nice to have a period piece female lead who is clearly going to progress from being the one who needs to be rescued to becoming a bit of an action hero herself in the pair’s further adventures. It would make a lovely TV drama in the right hands too.
Tuttle’s combination of the logical detection process with the supernatural is I feel a particularly apt tribute to Conan Doyle, considering that although he created the ultimate logical thinker in Holmes, Conan Doyle himself became a firm believer in spiritualism in late life folowing the loss of his son in the First World War.
Lovingly crafted tribute to the world of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, MR James, EF Benson and Baroness Orczy I give The Somnambulist and the Psychic Thief a 666/666
The Somnambulist and the Psychic Thief is published by our good friends at Jo Fletcher Books price £16.99in the UK