There are more than 250 screen adaptations of Sherlock Holmes and many authors have used the detective to spin their own mysteries. Leonard Goldberg, a clinical professor of medicine, has penned four novels featuring Holmes’ daughter. For some reason, Goldberg has chosen to name Sherlock’s daughter, Joanna Blalock, the same name as the female doctor in his contemporary medical thrillers. The Sherlock Joanna is married to Dr. Watson’s son, John, whose father, Dr. Watson, is still available to offer his medical expertise. Joanna and John’s young son, Johnny, is a mini-Sherlock, both in mannerisms and in the use of his still maturing grey cells. There’s no mention of Joanna’s mother, although other reviewers have speculated that she was Irene Adler, a romantic interest of Holmes who managed to outwit him.
Joanna and the Watsons live in Holmes’ old apartment at 221b Baker Street and Miss Hudson still attends to their needs. Ten days before Christmas, Inspector Lestrade calls on Joanna, hoping she can help with his investigation. Valuable works of art are being vandalized throughout the West End of London. The break-ins have happened not only at museums and galleries, but also in private homes, including one belonging to the Earl of Wessex, fifth in line of succession to the Crown. Intrigued, Joanna agrees to help, immediately coming up with a clue. A tattered scarf left behind at one of the crime scenes reeks of coal tar, a sign that the assailant has a skin condition requiring treatment with the smelly lotion.
The investigation centers on one of the galleries, Hawke and Evans, where restoration work is being done on several valuable paintings by Italian Renaissance artists. Performing the painstaking work is Giuseppe Delvecchio from the Uffizi in Florence.“This is someone who truly hates works of art and wishes they no longer be seen by anyone,” he tells Joanna. However, Joanna quickly comes up with another motive: the vandal is searching for another painting hidden behind those that are slashed. Because the paintings targeted feature women, Joanna has a way to narrow the search.
Taking a page from her father’s book, Joanna manages to scrutinize the small details to see things Lestrade and the other investigators miss. She soon identifies two possible culprits, James Blackstone, a skilled forger of old paintings, and Henry Edmunds, who Simon Hawke confirms, has a skin condition. But when Joanna learns that Edmunds was killed in an explosion at a prison where he was serving a five year sentence, she’s back to square one. But not for long.
Goldberg does a good job of bringing Holmes’ old stomping ground vividly to life. Since this is the first book I’ve read in the series, I don’t know whether Joanna’s relationship (if she had one) with her father was detailed. I also don’t know how she came to marry John. I’m intrigued enough to go back to the beginning to learn more.
One of the fun parts of The Art of Deception is looking up the various paintings mentioned, either those that are damaged, being restored, or hanging in museums or galleries. And when it’s revealed what the assailant was after, we are not in the least disappointed.
The Art of Deception
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