Elementary She Read: small-town Sherlock Holmes goodness!

Elementary she read book review

What is this about?: Gemma Doyle finds a valuable Christmas annual in the shelves of her store, and when she tries to return it, finds herself embroiled in a murder case. And then another. It starts to get bloody in Cape Cod!

What else is this about?: Introducing readers to the series, and to Gemma Doyle.


Gemma Doyle, a transplanted Englishwoman, has returned to the quaint town of West London on Cape Cod to manage her Great Uncle Arthur’s Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium. The shop–located at 222 Baker Street–specializes in the Holmes canon and pastiche, and is also the home of Moriarty the cat. When Gemma finds a rare and potentially valuable magazine containing the first Sherlock Homes story hidden in the bookshop, she and her friend Jayne (who runs the adjoining Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room) set off to find the owner, only to stumble upon a dead body.

The highly perceptive Gemma is the police’s first suspect, so she puts her consummate powers of deduction to work to clear her name, investigating a handsome rare books expert, the dead woman’s suspiciously unmoved son, and a whole family of greedy characters desperate to cash in on their inheritance. But when Gemma and Jayne accidentally place themselves at a second murder scene, it’s a race to uncover the truth before the detectives lock them up for good.

Fans of Sherlock Holmes will delight in the sleuthing duo of Gemma and Jayne in Elementary, She Read, the clever and captivating series debut by nationally bestselling author Vicki Delany.

Elementary, She Read is a good example of why cozy mysteries are the perfect antidote to real life when reality is just getting too much. I read this last year, and just now realised that I hadn’t posted my review.

Gemma owns the Sherlock Holmes Book Emporium, where you’re likely to find a Benedict Cumberbatch mug, a Martin Freeman cutout, next to a Christopher Plummer Sherlock movie, and other assorted knick knacks. It can’t be all Sherlock all the time, and Gemma wouldn’t want it to be. She runs her store with her Great Uncle Arthur, and owns half of the Mrs Hudson tea room next door, which is managed by Jayne, her friend.

One day, while cleaning up after a day’s work, Gemma finds a Beaton Christmas Annual featuring a Study in Scarlet from 1800-and-something. She immediately recalls who is the owner, and with Jayne in tow, goes off to return the item – and finds the woman dead in her hotel room. The woman is the former nurser of wealthy family, the Kent family, in Boston, whose patriarch is known for collecting all things Sherlock. From there Gemma launches herself into the mystery, and we begin to learn more about Gemma, Jayne and their lives in West London.

It took some time for me to get used to the fact that this wasn’t London, UK, but West London in Cape Cod where this mystery was taking place. This small town comes to life under Delany’s hands, and we learn about how the town fares during tourist season, and outside it, and how everyone knows everyone else – and the curmudgeons in the town (and on the police force). We also learn about what brought Gemma to the US, and of her own history with the lead cop investigating the case – her ex, Ryan.

Gemma herself, is a matter of fact, analytical Sherlockian character, who tackles the mystery in the small town with the same focus that Sherlock would any of his mysteries he’s famous for – though, it has to be said he never had a job outside investigating and Gemma definitely does. The cast of characters surrounding Gemma amplify her Ennglishness and her SherlocknessJayne is perhaps most used to dealing with Gemma, and is actually interested in her investigating to some extent, whereas Ryan, ex that he is, seems threatened by it in their previous relationship. He still is to some extent, but I confess I didn’t much like him for the way he treated Gemma previously, and his desire to see her change to fit in with what he wants.

Gemma may be oblivious to her own inability to be completely over Ryan, but she is well aware that Robbie, Jayne’s current boyfriend, is no good for her, and continues to try to push her in the direction of Andy, the cook and owner of a local café. The friends are very invested in what happens to each other and their happiness, but oblivious to seeing the issues in their own situations. Jayne also isn’t afraid to call Gemma out on the things that she does – which is why, this friendship is one of the most important parts of this book.

And why Jayne accompanies Gemma on her investigations, including finding a second body.

So the mystery deepens, and the rifts in the Kent family come to the fore the more Gemma investigates, until the conclusion that was a surprise to me, but looking back through the story makes perfectly, logical, Sherlockian sense.

All in all a thoroughly enjoyable read!


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