Friday, February 10, 2017

Not so elementary, my dear Watson

Cat Flap

By Ian Jarvis

Publisher: MX Publishing 

Pub Date: February 1, 2017

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Bernard Quist is a private investigator although he prefers the term "Consultant detective". He recently hired a young 19 year old black youth by the name of Watson to be his assistant. Lately the detective trade has been centered around tracking unfaithful spouses and working divorce cases. But when a somewhat seedy thug asks them to prove his fiancee did not die of a suicide, it takes them into serial killer territory with a string of murders involving employees of a pharmaceutical company.

Does Bernard Quist remind you of anyone in particular?

Cat Flap is a clever take-off on the Sherlock Holmes mysteries. But while Quist has a lot in common with the great detective there is plenty of reasons Quist is his own man. Ian Jarvis is clearly making a tribute of sorts to Sherlock Holmes but he is also successfully creating a detective that can stand on its own. This is a modern mystery complete with all the fixings of contemporary England but Quist seems slightly out of place. There is a reason for this but that must be kept a secret for now. Enter 19 year old Watson, a thoroughly contemporary but sometimes naive British lad with a sense for all the modern things that Quist seems clumsy around. There is an vast array of secondary and minor characters that add to the plot, perhaps too many. But it all makes sense in the end and the reader realizes that this was one clever ride.

But what really makes this novel work is the humor. It is a clever dry wit that shows up in the dialogue whether Quist is giving his eager assistant back-handed compliments or commenting on that which no one else gets. When the mystery takes a supernatural turn, the author is right there gauging the reactions of the characters and making a few odd quirks in the plot instantly understandable.

Overall, Cat Flap is a fun novel. It's hard to take it too seriously but easy to get caught up in the fun. While the Holmes pastiche beginning helps one get hooked, the novel soon becomes its own story. In fact, now that the character are introduced and developed, it might be good to dump the Holmes connection altogether in the next inevitable books. Quist is too interesting to play second fiddle.

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