Becky, here. I’m so happy to have Vicki Delany visit us at Chicks. Vicki moderated the very first panel I was ever on at Left Coast Crime. She was droll and witty and very clever and I immediately knew she was someone I wanted to get to know better. I’m pleased to say we’ve become friends since then and I’m endlessly entertained by her and her books. And guess what! She has a new one out soon!
Sherlock Holmes and Me
There is, as we are always being told in creative writing classes, no such thing as a new idea.
It’s all been done before. Take the story of an orphaned boy: a lowly (and lonely) childhood; a hidden, ever-watchful guardian; dangerous times; an eternal enemy; the big reveal of the boy’s true identity; then, armed with knowledge of his destiny, boy saves world.
It’s been written a hundred times, from the tales of King Arthur to Star Wars to Harry Potter. (Why it’s always a boy, is a post for another day.)
The trick is not to come up with an original idea, because you probably can’t, but to make it your own.
Enter Sherlock Holmes. I don’t have to tell you how popular Sherlock is right now, from movies to TV to more books than you can count. Colouring books, puzzles, mugs. Old books reissued and re-illustrated, new ones being written.
Favourite characters reimagined.
Make it your own, they say.
And so I created Gemma Doyle and the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium.
I’m a cozy writer and I’m also a keen mystery reader. When I was looking for inspiration for a new series, I thought a bookstore would be fun. The idea popped into my head: A bookstore dedicated to all things Sherlock Holmes.
When I started to do some research on that, I quickly discovered it’s not such an unfeasible idea. You could easily stock a store with nothing but Sherlock. Not only things I mentioned above but all the stuff that goes with it: playing card sets, tea towels, games, puzzles, action figures, cardboard cut-out figures. The list is just about endless. Throw in all the modern pastiche novels, nonfiction works on Sir Arthur and his contemporaries, maybe a few books set in the “gaslight” era. And, presto, a fully operational bookstore. What would a bookstore be without a cat? In this case, one Moriarty, who has a strange antipathy to Gemma.
I’ve enjoyed stocking my bookstore, and as befits a book about a bookshop, I drop a lot of names of real books. Many I have read, some I haven’t, but I enjoy fitting the book to the imaginary character buying it.
Because cozy lovers (and me) love food to go with their reading, I put Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room next door, run by Gemma’s best friend Jayne Wilson.
My original intent was that the main character would be a normal cozy character. A nice young woman who owns an interesting bookshop, lives in a pleasant community (in this case, on Cape Cod), and has a circle of friends.
But, by the time I got to page two, Gemma Doyle had become “Sherlock”.
And that’s been enormous fun to write. Gemma has an amazing memory (for things she wants to remember), incredible observational skills, and a lightning fast mind. She is also, shall we say, somewhat lacking on occasion in the finer points of social skills. Jayne is ever-confused, but always loyal.
Like any modern Sherlock, such as Benedict Cumberbatch’s interpretation, Gemma deciphers cell phone signals and finds clues on the Internet. Like any Sherlock, her relationship with the local police is complicated, but in her case it’s because she’s in love with Ryan Ashburton, the town’s lead detective, and he with her, but the relationship is difficult because it’s hard to be with a woman who seems to be able to read your mind. Detective Louise Estrada (Estrada/Lestrade. Get it?) doesn’t trust her one bit.
But Gemma Doyle investigates nonetheless, because:
“The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.”The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
But Gemma Doyle, in the manner of Sherlock Holmes, observes.
To take the theme of ‘no such thing as a new idea’ further, the seventh book in the series, A Three Book Problem (Crooked Lane Books, January 11, 2022) sees Gemma and Jayne participating in a Cape Cod version of a traditional English Country House weekend. Complete with a murder and a limited circle of suspects. The title is derived from Holmes’ “three pipe problem” meaning a difficult case to think over.
Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, reimagined as modern young women just trying to get on with life. And solve mysteries.
Readers … on a scale of 1-100, how big of a Sherlock Holmes fan are you? Would you seek out a real-life version of the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium? How much money would you end up spending?
Gemma Doyle is back on the case in bestselling author Vicki Delany’s seventh Sherlock Holmes Bookshop mystery when a poisoned dart ends in demise.
It’s a crisp, early October weekend, and business is slowing down as fall descends at the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium and adjacent Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room. Wealthy philanthropist and prominent Sherlockian David Masterson has rented Suffolk Gardens House, where he plans to entertain his friends in a traditional English country house weekend.
As the chosen caterers, Jayne Wilson and Gemma Doyle get to work preparing lavish meals and setting up Sherlockian books and props for entertainment. Meanwhile, police detective Ryan Ashburton has taken time away from his duties to assist in the kitchen. It quickly becomes apparent that David’s guests don’t like each other–or their host. Plus, some of them aren’t even acquainted with the adventures of the Great Detective.
Before Gemma can ponder their relationships a poisoned dart sails through the window of the library, presenting Gemma Doyle with a three-book problem.
Vicki Delany is one of Canada’s most prolific and varied crime writers and a national bestseller in the U.S. She has written more than forty books: clever cozies to Gothic thrillers to gritty police procedurals, to historical fiction and novellas for adult literacy. She is currently writing four cozy mystery series: the Catskill Resort mysteries for Penguin Random House, the Tea by the Sea mysteries for Kensington, the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series for Crooked Lane Books, and the Lighthouse Library series (as Eva Gates) for Crooked Lane.
Vicki is a past president of the Crime Writers of Canada and co-founder and organizer of the Women Killing It Crime Writing Festival. Her work has been nominated for the Derringer, the Bony Blithe, the Ontario Library Association Golden Oak, and the Arthur Ellis Awards. Vicki is the recipient of the 2019 Derrick Murdoch Award for contributions to Canadian crime writing. She lives in Prince Edward County, Ontario.