Book Review: Mrs. Sherlock Holmes by Brad Ricca (three stars)

Book Review: Mrs. Sherlock Holmes: The True Story of New York City’s Greatest Female Detective and the 1917 Missing Girl Case that Captivated the Nation by Brad Ricca (three stars)

“Vice conditions here in the city are astounding,” Grace said. “The ‘good people’ of New York are as much asleep to the nastiness of their city as the nation appears to be to the seriousness of our war.”

A well-written, if pointless history of the career of a female detective. If she was New York’s greatest, New York is in trouble. Grace Humiston’s approach to crime foreshadowed Joe McCarthy’s to politics. She saw all crime through a single lens—white slavery—and developed her cases accordingly.

Grace had gone from the most celebrated woman in New York City to something of a pariah. But she was still trying to save the girls of her city.

Twice as long as necessary. Too many rabbit trails; too many extraneous details. Paid by the word? Ricca seems proud of every shred of fact he unearthed relating to Humiston or anyone she met on the street.

“I believe the city as a whole has felt that the work of the police department was and is steadily improving,” the mayor said. New Yorkers read it in disbelief.

That said, an interesting recreation of New York City crime, corruption, and journalism a hundred years ago. Little seems to have changed other than technology.

The reader must, as those of the time had to, consider each individual source. That is part of the story, too.

3 thoughts on “Book Review: Mrs. Sherlock Holmes by Brad Ricca (three stars)

  1. I almost didn’t get past ‘MRS. Sherlock…’, so strong is my aversion to books which use the creation of Conan Doyle, but are NOT Conan Doyle. Personal prejudice – invent your own detectives, writers!

    But I’m in the minority, and vote by not buying things that offend my sensitivities – which no one notices.

    The title would have been better without the reference to the famous detective. I wasn’t sure whether the book was meant to be fiction or not. It sounds from your review as if judicious editing of the content would have helped as well. But then there are readers who will love it precisely BECAUSE it left no detail unoverturned. And I hope he finds enough of those.

  2. Paradoxically, that title was not Ricca’s invention. Grace Humiston was called that by the contemporary NYC press.

  3. They’re just as bad – except that headline creators need to do it in a few words.

    No one NOW (okay, few people now) remembers that the press called her that. As I said, I know I’m in the minority – movies are pitched now by ridiculous combinations of two or more previous movies, and books can’t be much different. “‘Jaws’ – only with aliens.” Etc.

    I’m too far out of loops to even catch the references most of the time, but the ones I do understand are very tired and shop-worn.

    Originality, people. I manage it in my novels (yes, now plural! – second one is out!), but it does take more words. 🙂

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