So said Sherlock Holmes in The Yellow Face. Any indefinite doubt I had about Caleb Carr's ability to craft a credible and very enjoyable Sherlock Holmes adventure was dispelled in the first few pages.
I have read and enjoyed Carr's earlier fiction, The Alienist and The Angel of Darkness. One of the hallmarks of both books was Carr's ability to create a seemingly auhentic picture of life in 19th-century New York. He also created a wonderful pair of characters in Dr. Lazlo Kreizler and his trusted comrade John Schuyler Moore. However, Carr faced two hurdles in writing the Italian Secretary. He had to recreate the atmosphere of Victorian-era Scotland, a region he was probably not as intimately familiar with as New York City. Further, while Kreizler and Moore sprung solely from Carr's imagination, here Carr had to find authentic voices for the esteemed Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, whose characterization by Arthur Conan Doyle must be fixed firmly in the imagination of anyone who has ever read the original Holmes tales. That is no easy task.
I have read virtually all of Conan Doyle's work but admit that I cannot claim as much expertise as devoted Baker Street Irregulars or other followers of Holmes. However, this amateur thinks Carr has done a terrific job replicating their original voices. It sound like Holmes and Watson to me.
The plot line is set out in detail in the product description and I won't go on at length about the plot or discuss any of the many twists and turns along the way. I did like the way Carr threw Sherlock's brother Mycroft into the story. Carr does an excellent job describing the petty sibling rivalries that must affect even the most accomplished of brothers.
Carr does a very good job of revealing bits and pieces of the mystery every few pages. The story is fast-paced and the many twists and turns in the story left me continually wanting to read just one more chapter before I put the book down for the evening. For me, this is the mark of good adventure tale.
In an afterword. Jon Lellenberg, the U.S. representative of the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, suggests that Carr write a new story in which Holmes and Watson meet up with Carr's Kreizler and Moore. I do hope Carr takes a stab at this.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote in "The Man With the Twisted Lip" that "a trusty comrade is always of use; and a chronicler still more so." Carr has done a marvelous job in chronicling the further adventures of Sherlock Holmes. This is a book that will be enjoyed by fans of both Carr and Conan-Doyle as well as by readers who simply like a fast-paced, well written yarn.