Author Michael Robertson successfully capitalizes on our never-ending fascination with Sherlock Holmes in his new Baker Street Letters mystery series, now updated with a fifth entry, The Baker Street Jurors.
This satisfying, dryly humorous book follows in the footsteps of the others Robertson has penned in the series. He uses the clever trope of following the contemporary tenants at 221B Baker Street, brothers Reggie (barrister) and Nigel (solicitor), who’ve found that their offices continue to receive mail addressed to the building’s famous former tenant. It’s clear that scores of people believe that Holmes is no fantasy and, what’s more, that he lives on. The duo can’t help picking up on some of the mail and following through on requests for the great detective’s assistance.
The Baker Street Jurors involves a wayward summons for jury duty mistakenly addressed to one Sherlock Holmes, coupled with one of the same for Nigel, who ends up as an alternate juror at the murder trial of a famous British cricket player. The trial comes at the same time as the big championship game, frustrating most of the population of England, who want him acquitted and ready to compete.
It’s odd, though—the jurors themselves seem to be mysteriously falling by the wayside one by one, victims of various strange mishaps, leading to the suspicion that someone’s trying to pack the jury in a particular way.
This isn’t just another legal thriller. It’s so smoothly written it sneaks up on you, as testimony slowly builds the case for and against, without the need for other chapters that revisit the crime. Activities are conducted in a conversational tone, and the author has done a superb job of character build-up, including the presence of one odd alternate juror whose pipe-smoking habits and Holmesian methodology strike a curious chord with fellow jurors. There’s enough background to pique interest, not enough to bore.
Understated humor lifts this tale a cut above the ordinary. While Nigel is a central character, it’s Mr. Justice Allen, the trial judge, who steals the show. As jurors succumb one by one to odd accidents, he can be heard to issue the warning “Don’t run with scissors” and other droll admonishments, or to comment on the jury members’ bad note-taking habits such as making “sketches of male and female naughty bits.”
Readers who pick up this book will want to visit Robertson’s earlier books and learn more about this treat of a series.