Believe it! Sherlock Holmes actually said, “while the individual man is an insoluble puzzle, in the aggregate he becomes a mathematical certainty.” Thus does he foreshadow quantum mechanics in this pastiche that has the old bloodhound—he’s 73 now—moving through a literary detective novel. It’s to author McAlpine’s credit that he makes what might have been an arch exercise into a joy to read.
The plot finds Jorge Luis Borges coming across a manuscript handwritten by long-deceased Holmes. Suddenly Borges is evading a killer and seeking out a PI for help. Then we dive into the manuscript itself, and Holmes tells us he’s become a college professor with a phony German accent. He’s consulted by a midlist author named Conan Doyle about a problematic seance, and what follows is an engrossing display of Holmesian scholarship, bent on convincing us that Holmes was not the Victorian gentleman the late Watson portrayed.
It’s a fascinating read, smart and entertaining for all that it’s based on those quantum mechanics. That’s right, it’s Holmes confronting alternate universes, and it’s wonderful. — Don Crinklaw
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