I don’t watch the CBS show Elementary, but I am a fan of Sherlock Holmes books whether they be the originals by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle by the various author who have decided to take on the world’s greatest detective. So, when I received a copy of Elementary: The Ghost Line by Adam Christopher (Empire State) I approached it as I would any other Sherlock Holmes book rather than as a tie-in to the television series. It turns out that Elementary: The Ghost Line does not disappoint and makes a great addition to the history of Sherlock Holmes incarnations. That said, I do have a passing familiarity with the show and can easily see how this book fits in with that universe and creates a universe unique to the television series. If you have even a minimal understanding of the basis of the show you can quickly pick up on what everything is. Here is a brief overview of the story without giving away too much:
Holmes and Watson are called to a murder at an apartment in Hell’s Kitchen. The victim is a subway driver that turns out to have ties to Colombian drug cartels and that’s just where it really starts to get interesting. This leads Sherlock and Watson down into the underground tunnels beneath New York where they discover a world nobody knows about. It’s kind of an interesting nod to the Holmes novels of old by creating a Victorian-esque setting beneath the streets of New York to find out why the assassination took place in the beginning. Of course, as is true in any Sherlock Holmes story, nobody is to be trusted or believed and the puzzle pieces all fall together by the end (with a significant body cout, I might add).
It’s a little hard to talk about a mystery novel without giving away too much of the story, but there is a lot to work with in this one. The author does a great job with descriptions, being very specific about the view of the city, the tunnels, and of course the characters. His is especially true of Holmes as all of his movements, tics, and mannerisms are described in depth (sometime exceedingly so). While most of the chapters are from the point of view of Watson, there are a couple of chapters throughout from the perspective of a couple of police detectives. This really speaks to the television roots of the story and character and allows for a little more insight to the story (in contrast, most Holmes books are written as a memoir from the viewpoint of Watson). The one character we never get in the mind of is Holmes himself, which is probably a good idea. If we knew what Holmes thought throughout the book we would never be surprised when the mystery is solved because we already put it together. As a sde note, I must say that the mystery is not terrible complex and those used to the genre might solve it ahead of the book but that doesn’t take anything away. It’s the characters that drive the story.
Overall, Elementary: The Ghost Line does a good job as a Holmes novel. It is well written and moves at a quick pace from the very beginning. It has some great imagery throughout and gives a real insight to how Holmes impacts those around him in his life. As a tie-in novel you can really see how the story could play out as a television episode but without the limitations of time or budget. The author seems to have a firm grasp on the characters and a clear story to tell. Elementary: The Ghost Line is a fun read for Holmes fans (who will no doubt gain an interest in the series) and will be a great way for fans of the show to make it in those between season times when they’re Jonesing for some Elementary.
Elementary: The Ghost Line is currently available from Titan Books