The title might make one think of the locked room mysteries of the Golden Age detective. Sherlock Holmes was no stranger to solving the apparently inexplicable. The setting is the 1920s - so this is the time period when these sorts of stories were at their height.
But that's a long way from what we get. King's story places Holmes in San Francisco and into the path of Dashiell Hammett, still earning his keep as a detective, who was to give us a very different sort of detective fiction. And the influence of that - more modern - style of detective writing hangs over the tale.
King's Holmes is not Conan Doyle's - a point she seems anxious to make herself, describing him, and presumably his stories, through the voice of Holmes, as ridiculous. Of course, Holmes always gave short shrift to the literary efforts of Watson in describing his exploits, but one can't help feeling this is part of a deliberate effort to distance this Holmes from Doyle's.
This Holmes shares many similarities with the original, but he does not have extraordinary deductive powers of Conan Doyle's version. The mystery here is spread over hundreds of pages - yet, one might think - the old Holmes could have wrapped it up in a short story.
This was my first taste of King's continuation of the Sherlock Holmes stories - it possibly wasn't the ideal place to jump in. There are eight books worth of adventures to get this point and doubtless the series has been extremely rewarding for those who've followed it.
For those that haven't this book still is not without its pleasures. San Francisco makes for a great backdrop for the story: a new town, still finding its feet (as opposed to the grime of London) the famous vibrant Chinatown and the horror of the 1906 earthquake and fire. The writing is easy and a pleasure to read. And the chance to spend time with a much loved character - even if somewhat changed - is, for me, a comfort and enough to put a smile on my face.