My thanks to Crooked Lane books and NetGalley for a review copy of this book.

A Three Book Problem is the seventh of a cosy mystery series, the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mysteries. The series centres around Gemma Doyle, a British woman who has moved to West London in the United States where she helps her uncle Arthur run a Sherlock Holmes Emporium and Bookshop selling books, puzzles and Holmes knickknacks. Alongside she is also a partner in her friend Jayne Wilson’s tearoom, Mrs Hudson’s tearoom, next door to the shop. We also have Ryan Ashburton, a detective in the West London police who is Gemma’s boyfriend.

In this instalment, Gemma and Jayne (with Ryan as assistant) set out for Suffolk Gardens House, a large manor style home rented by David Masterson, a wealthy Sherlockian who is hosting a Holmes themed weekend there. Gemma is to provide the props and games while Jayne is catering the event. Invitees are to dress in costume, movies will be screened, games played, a paper read and all things Sherlock discussed; David’s poorer relations Annie and Billy are to act as housekeeper and butler, respectively. But when Gemma starts to meet the guests, she is puzzled to find that many of them are not die-hard Sherlockians as she had expected; in fact, some seem completely uninterested in Sherlock. Not only that, most don’t like each other or indeed David.

Then amidst the general unpleasantness, a murder occurs. And Gemma and Jayne are right on the scene. But which of the guests might have done it or could it have been an outsider?

A Three Book Problem was the first in the series that I read but we do get enough background to read along with ease. However, this turned out to be a mixed reading experience for me.

Conceptually I found the book/series very interesting and fun. While the mysteries and setting are  modern-day,  Holmes is very much at its centre. Sherlock references are peppered throughout the book, be it names of books, characters (including Gemma’s shop cat, Moriarty), films, various actors who portrayed Holmes at different points and such. I did feel that these were more surface level than in depth though. There is also of course, the method of murder that is based on a Holmes story and Gemma’s detection method, based on keen observation like the great detective of Baker Street; these added to the Sherlockian feel of the book.

I also liked the characters (Gemma and her friends, that is to say) in the story; a bunch that one does get interested in and as is usual in cosy series, we follow developments in their lives alongside. There are also animals, though with a background role–Gemma’s two dogs, Violet and Peony and the shop cat Moriarty who were fun to have around. Also plenty of food (always a plus).

But there were also elements in the book that were middling or just ok-ish for me. In these was the mystery itself. While there was nothing wrong with the mystery or its solution, and we are presented with a set of convincing suspects, I felt that there was nothing in it that took me by surprise or that blew me away. There are some secrets and revelations but no major twist or turn that adds enjoyment to mysteries.

In part because of this reason, the book also felt a bit stretched out. Yes one gets to meet a few more characters and observe their behaviour and such in their interactions, but these didn’t feel like something that really needed to as much or as many times as we are shown. So a lot could have been trimmed off or made crisper.

So overall this turned out just an ok read for me. I rate it 3 stars. I may however, try another at some point to see if it’s better than this since I did like the concept.

10 thoughts on “Book Review: A Three Book Problem by Vicki Delaney

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