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The Art of Detection Mass Market Paperback – 29 May 2007

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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group; Reprint edition (29 May 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553588338
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553588330
  • Product Dimensions: 10.8 x 2.7 x 17.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 399,141 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Jack on 15 April 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I've been a big fan of all of Laurie R King's Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series of novels, so this book, billed as a sort of cross-over, seemed like a good idea, as I am eagerly awaiting the new MR novel.

I've also read a few of King's other novels, set in modern day America (usually San Francisco), and enjoyed them - albeit not as much as the MR series.

This particular novel just didn't capture my imagination as much. The impetus for solving the mystery simply didn't jump off the page, and the characters are feeling a little tired now. The main character, Kate Martinelli a female detective with San Franciso Police Department, who is gay, felt more like a cipher for gay rights, than a fully rounded person. This is particularly surprising, because King's writing of Mary Russell is outstanding, and is the reason I love that series so much.

I limped through this book, often putting it aside in favour of something more punchy.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have only previously read Laurie King's Holmes and Russell novels and bought this book because of the promised cross-over. King is an accomplished writer who creates a real feel for time and location in her Holmes stories and the story within a story of this book was no exception. The modern element of the plot was very enjoyable too and I felt Laurie King blended her two series together perfectly. A very enjoyable read.
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By S Higgins on 28 April 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A story within a story.
A detection within a detection.
Fascinating and very well written. A real pleasure from start to finish.
Jam packed with interest and intrigue, characters that you can believe in, that are complex and dedicated.
Such an enjoyable book, can't recommend it highly enough, just settle down with it in a comfortable armchair and indulge yourself.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 115 reviews
77 of 81 people found the following review helpful
Multiple strands within a good tale 1 Dec. 2006
By Maryland Reader - Published on
Format: Hardcover
If you have scanned the reviews for this book, you'll note a wide range of stars among the reviews. It seems to be a love-it or hate-it book, but I found it an engrossing and highly entertaining read.

For the uninitiated, Laurie R. King has several series of mysteries. The two best known are a Sherlock Holmes series, written from the first-person perspective of Holmes' wife (yeah, it takes an initial suspension of disbelief, but once there, you are a believer) and one featuring Kate Martinelli, a modern day San Francisco homicide detective. I love both series and read them avidly as they appear. This book entwines the two series, with Kate Martinelli taking on a murder investigation that involves local "Sherlockians".

A couple of things made this book not for everyone. The author has a descriptive narrative style and describes the physical environment in some detail. If someone is not familiar with San Francisco, the descriptions of the various neighborhoods and the directions of where the detectives where heading might get tedious. However, if you know San Francisco, even a little, they paint evocative pictures of the where and when and the people of the place.

On a similar note, if you have never been to the Marin Headlands on the "other side" of the Golden Gate Bridge, it might be be difficult to picture the juxtaposition of the raw physical beauty of the area and these old military relics/gun placements, etc.

Finally, the fact that the Kate Martinelli character is an unapologetic lesbian and that one of the subplots of the story revolved around a WWI soldier and his transvestite or transgendered partner may not have been to the taste of some readers. Pity them.

The pacing may have been slower than some of King's previous books, but I had trouble putting this down once I got into it.
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Two Mysteries for the Price of One 27 Aug. 2006
By avoraciousreader - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Laurie R. King skillfully blends two of her mystery series in this book. The outer plot is a possible murder being investigated by series detective Kate Martinelli of the SFPD. The dead man is a Sherlock Holmes collector and dealer, organizer of a Holmes themed dinner club, and Kate finds a manuscript he had recently acquired, which seems to have been written by Conan Doyle during his brief stay in San Francisco in the 1920's. It is, of course, "actually" (at least to those of us familiar with King's Mary Russell / Sherlock Holmes series) a manuscript written by Holmes during their stay in San Francisco detailed in "Locked Rooms", a sidestory of an investigation he undertook while Russell was away on business. King has some fun playing with us, as to whether we are supposed to believe it is a scandalous and suppressed Conan Doyle fiction, or a historical account by Holmes.

Now this kind of thing can easily blow up or become tedious, but after some initial awkwardness King pulls it off and I found myself reading each story with equal interest yet without any real frustration at having to switch off one to the other. When the Holmes story finished (it occupies most of the third quarter of the book, as Kate is reading it for clues to her own case), I'm satisfied and ready to get back to modern days. Also great fun is the balancing of Kate's skeptical introduction to the world of the Sherlockians (she had little if any acquaintance with the Conan Doyle stories, much less the mystique they have gathered) against the interior Holmes story ... for instance, the narrator of the story refers to himself as Sigerson, which Kate doesn't realize is one of Holmes's aliases (and the one under which he and Russell were travelling in "Locked Rooms").

I'd almost give this one five stars, but a few problems tilt me to four:

-- as other reviewers have pointed out, the book does drag a bit in the early middle, and when we're first plopped into the Holmesian sub-story about halfway through. But eventually, when we get used to the change, it picks up to become quite a good read and I didn't find the minor switching back and forth and eventually entirely back to the Martinelli story distracting; it even seemed to have a good logical flow.

-- another reason for the .. ahem .. drag is the occasional lengthy digressions into Kate's personal and community life, lengthy, dewey-eyed PC treatises that is. I have nothing against gay/lesbian fiction per se, and enjoy, for instance, Jane Rule's novels and Joseph Hansen's Dave Brandstetter mysteries. But these interludes seem forced, tacked on as if they, and not the story, are the real purpose of the book (which they likely are); and too picture perfect, Diversity Potemkin Villages as it were. (By contrast, the gay theme in the Holmes substory is integral to the plot and seems quite natural.)

-- although the plot builds nicely to a point near the end, where two convincing suspects are identified, the very end is unsatisfying in that Kate seems to decide, and take precipitate and drastic action, on the basis of weak evidence, and the final scenes (before another PC interlude) are less than convincing. (It doesn't help that the villain, if not the motive, was pretty obvious pretty early on.)
34 of 40 people found the following review helpful
Could have been so much more 7 Jun. 2006
By ellen - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the latest in King's Kate Martinelli mysteries. Is it the best of the series? No. It does progress the S.F. cop in her professional and personal life - She is living with her partner, Lee, and their daughter and show that relationship is just like any other 'marriage'. The plot of Detection holds much promise - an aficianado of Arthur Conan Doyle and his masterful Sherlock Holmes - is murdered, and Kate and her cop partner try to sort it out. Ms. King knows her Sherlock Holmes- writing the masterful Mary Russell series-where her husband/partner is none other than Sherlock Holmes himself. But this Martinelli book doesn't have the elegance of the Russell series, and it seems to plod along - I know true investigation is a lot of grunt work, but so many steps of it does not add to the integrity of the plot. Martinelli is a solid character and the premise of the series is a good one. But this book needed to move along at a tighter pace.

This is not the best of the Martinelli series, but any King work is great to read - it's just that with the subject matter of a character who was all consumed by one of the most wonderful fictional characters could have been so much more of a read.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
The Game's A Bore 24 Jun. 2007
By P Tupper - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Love the Mary Russell stories. Really like the Martinelli character. This book was an ill concieved blend of sorts, with Martinelli seeking resolution of the death of a Holmes' collector. Both the modern day mystery and the pastiche were slow and thin. The book itself is preachy, where it had no need to try so hard. The vignettes of Kate and Nora and Lee spoke more eloquently about acceptance than the rest of the tepid storylines. The mystery itself was no mystery. The pastiche was merely annoying. I just can't find a reason to recommend this book. A disappointment.
38 of 48 people found the following review helpful
"He lived and breathed Sherlock Holmes." 30 May 2006
By E. Bukowsky - Published on
Format: Hardcover
In Laurie R. King's "The Art of Detection," Inspectors Kate Martinelli and Al Hawkin of the San Francisco Police Department investigate the death of a man who was dumped, barefoot and in his pajamas, in a park near the Golden Gate Bridge. The victim, Philip Gilbert, was a well-known expert on Sherlock Holmes and his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Besides having an impressive private collection of Holmesiana, Gilbert lived in a house that looks like a Masterpiece Theatre set, complete with Victorian furnishings and objects that Holmes himself might have used. Gilbert periodically met for dinner with like-minded Sherlockians dressed in period costumes. Although he was in regular communication with fellow collectors, antiquarian book dealers, and auction houses, Gilbert was a very private person with few friends.

Kate and Al interview neighbors and acquaintances of the deceased and examine the physical evidence both in Gilbert's home and at the place where his body was found. When a manuscript turns up that may be an undiscovered work by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the stakes are raised. Could this typescript, which, if authenticated, may prove to be extremely valuable, be a motive for murder?

Kate, who is gay, lives contentedly with her partner, Lee, and their daughter, Nora. They are a warm and loving family, and although Lee is sometimes irked by Kate's dedication to her job, she reluctantly accepts the fact that Kate's work will always be a priority for her. The Gilbert homicide proves to be one of those difficult-to-solve cases that will consume a great deal of time before it is finally resolved.

Alas, "The Art of Detection" is a tepid mystery that consists, for the most part, of long-winded conversations between the detectives and various witnesses and suspects, and it is a slow slog indeed. The one portion of the book that comes alive is the story within a story, consisting of the entire text of a hitherto lost manuscript that may have been written by Doyle after he visited San Francisco in the twenties. The plot features a man who bears a strong resemblance to Sherlock Holmes. Assisted by an erstwhile pickpocket, he investigates the death of a soldier who had been having a homosexual affair. Kate is struck by the uncanny resemblances between the events in the Doyle typescript and the real-life murder of Philip Gilbert.

The overriding theme of the book is that intolerance and prejudice can destroy those whose love is outside of the mainstream. Unfortunately, King's heavy-handed prose detracts from the work's impact; a more subtle approach would have been welcome. The conclusion is anticlimactic and weighed down with excessive exposition. Even readers who adore Sherlock Holmes may quickly become impatient with the talkiness and sluggish pacing of "The Art of Detection."
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