Monday, June 20, 2011
The Detections of Dr. Sam: Johnson: Review
Lillian de la Torre wrote a series of short stories for Ellery Queen's Mystery magazine (over 40 in all) which featured Dr. Samuel Johnson as a great detective as well as a great lexicographer. These stories were later collected into four volumes, of which The Detections of Dr. Sam: Johnson is one. These stories set Johnson up as a Holmes-like character with James Boswell acting as his Watson. The mysteries themselves are good without being great, but the main attractions are the personality of Johnson, the Boswellian commentary on events, and the obvious amount of research de la Torre put into her stories. Notes at the end of each story reveal that the fictional accounts have their basis in either actual events and characters from the 18th Century or legends that were circulating during the time period.
This was a very quick, light read. The first story, "The Stroke of Thirteen," is very good and she even tries her hand at a locked room mystery. Interesting period detail and pleasant mysteries that didn't require a lot of heavy-duty brain work. The most difficult part for some readers might be wading through some of the 18th C terminology--but quite a lot can be inferred from the context. I thoroughly enjoyed Johnson as a character and will certainly be keeping my eye out for the other collections. Three and a half stars out of five.