This slim, inventive novel begins in the early 1940s in Buenos Aires, though it is only a frame to the body of the story, which takes place in the 1920s. Sherlock Holmes is a living and breathing character now retired from his profession as a detective. He is a professor now, and his business partner, Dr. John Watson, is deceased. When a well-known author of science fiction and adventure stories, Arthur Conan Doyle, comes to Holmes to ask him for his help in determining who is trying to kill him, Holmes accepts the job with some hesitation.
Now, with the help of Dr. Watson’s widow, Holmes is back on the case. The clues lead him to debunk a séance, wear disguises as only Sherlock Holmes can, and even identify the source of a secret society. There are references to characters and circumstances which will be familiar to most readers of the original Sherlock Holmes series, and this metafictional approach to the series is somehow surprisingly refreshing and enjoyable. McAlpine appears to have a respect and an appreciation for the Conan Doyle stories about Holmes, but allows for the Holmes of his creation to be of a slightly different character than the version Dr. John Watson narrated. For die-hard Holmesians it may be a bit much to ask them to suspend their disbelief when the voice of Sherlock Holmes is different than what we have grown to know and love. But for others it will be a fun, quick read that is amusing to boot.