Baker Street Irregular

Written by Jon Lellenberg
Review by Ellen Keith

Woody Hazelbaker, a transplanted Kansan, is a lawyer in Depression-era New York City. He combines a love of the works of Arthur Conan Doyle with a flair for working just inside the law as he is given the secret assignment of helping a mobster liquidate his holdings. Woody finds kindred spirits when he is invited to join the Baker Street Irregulars, a group of Sherlock Holmes devotees comprised of writers, newspapermen, and booksellers. His career is aided by a chance meeting at a nightclub with a debutante; taking a fancy to him, she persuades her father to request Woody as his lawyer. Naturally, the debutante and Woody end up married, but his personal life is perhaps the least interesting aspect of the book.

Lellenberg, a Conan Doyle and Baker Street Irregulars historian, adroitly mixes fact and fiction. Woody rubs shoulders with real-life personages like Franklin Roosevelt, Alexander Woollcott, and Vincent Starrett. The author’s conceit is that Woody and the Irregulars played an influential part in aiding Britain while the U.S. government’s official stance was isolationist; Woody using the skills he honed helping his mobster client and the Irregulars lending their oratorical gifts to the cause.

Lovers of code-cracking, military history with an overlay of Sherlockiana will warm to Woody and his friends. Lellenberg is adept at bringing both pre-war New York City and London during the Blitz to vivid life. Woody may be too good to be true, but doesn’t every wartime story need a hero?