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Bourland, Fabrice - 'The Baker Street Phantom' (translated by Morag Young)
Paperback: 352 pages (Aug. 2010) Publisher: Gallic Books ISBN: 1906040281

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, died aged 71 on the 7 July 1930. Following the death of his first wife Louisa in 1906 and the deaths of several other close relations, Sir Arthur became involved with spiritualism and attended several seances. He wrote several books about this time with either references to spiritual matter or total immersion, as in The Coming of the Fairies (1921) and The History of Spiritualism (1926).

Andrew Singleton and James Trelawney are close friends who met at Boston University and who want to become detectives. They tried it initially in Boston but all they got were cases concerning adultery, so they decided to migrate to London. In the Spring of 1932 they open a private detective agency in Montague Street, Bloomsbury, London. At that time London was being terrorised by a series of brutal murders. One of the first clients of the two new detectives is Lady Jean Conan Doyle, the widowed second wife of Sir Arthur. Lady Doyle, it transpires, knew Singleton's father in Canada and his involvement in the Spiritualism Movement. The younger Singleton pretends to be as equally enthusiastic about the subject as his father was, in order to be more pleasing to her. Lady Doyle said that just before he died her husband had asked for a pencil and paper and had written: "The lodger is in the box and there he must stay".

Lady Doyle said she was mystified by what this statement could mean but felt it might have something to do with mysterious occurrences that were happening at No. 221, Baker Street. In the novels of the adventures of Sherlock Holmes the Detective and Dr Watson live at 221b, Baker Street which at the time the novels were written was a fictitious address as the road finished at number 85. Conan Doyle used 221 so as to not annoy any real residents who might be a bit cantankerous and not appreciate their address appearing in a book. However, in September 1930, the City Of London decided to extend the street by renaming York Place and Upper Baker Street. So one morning No. 221 was assigned to a small brick house between Marylebone Road and Regent's Park. The house has been occupied by a Major Heywood and his wife for the last 25 years. Over the last year they have heard noises at night, every night, coming from the first floor sitting room whilst they were sleeping in the second floor bedroom. In the morning the armchairs and other furniture had been moved. The Major's nephew, Dr John Dryden is a member of the Society of Psychical Research and he recounted the events in the Spiritualist magazine Light. According to him everything indicated the room was under the influence of a spirit. Lady Doyle believes that all of this gives her a hunch, a premonition of a terrible tragedy where a lot of blood will be spilt and that it is about to occur. She wants the two detectives to look into it for her.

So that is precisely what the two young detectives start to do. They start to investigate in detail and have many interesting adventures on the way in this very gripping story until the fascinating last pages where all is revealed. I thought the story was a real page turner, as we are all charmed by the adventures of Sherlock Holmes particularly with the updating of the stories in the new BBC TV programme Sherlock and Bourland has done all his research and come up with this brilliant new approach to the stories. There is some humour in this story as it is told tongue-in-cheek, specifically as far as the Spiritualism elements are concerned, but it is very well done and I urge readers of historical mysteries in particular, to consider reading this.

Terry Halligan, England
September 2010

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last updated 29/09/2010 20:00