A note about The Cuddlywumps Chronicles

This blog is written and maintained by Miss Cuddlywumps, a fluffy-tailed calico cat who is both classically educated and familiar with mysteries. She receives creative input from the Real Cats and clerical assistance from She of Little Talent (old SoLT, a.k.a. Roby Sweet). Comments or complaints should be addressed to Miss C rather than to old SoLt (Ms. Sweet). Ms. Sweet accepts no responsibility for Miss C's opinions.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Book Review: Elementary, She Read

We love Sherlock Holmes, so we could not wait to read Vicki Delany’s new book that is set largely in a bookshop devoted entirely to the fictional detective. It is really too bad that the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium is a fictional place, because we would like to go there. Right now.

A Sherlock emporium

Elementary, She Read, by Vicki Delany
The shop is located at 222 Baker Street in the touristy town of West London on Cape Cod. It is co-owned by Gemma Doyle, an Englishwoman who may be a distant relation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Surprisingly, Gemma is not a Sherlock fanatic. This is surprising both because of where she works and how she notices…everything. Not many details escape her attention: the exact location of every item in her shop, a frayed collar, a recently cut hangnail. She is really very Sherlockian in her ability to notice these little things and deduce explanations from them. 

A valuable magazine and a dead body

Things take a turn for the weird in Gemma’s life when a tour group descends upon her shop and a mysterious woman leaves something behind. What she leaves is not something you’d just stick in the lost and found. It is instead a very valuable magazine, possibly the most expensive magazine in the world. It is something a well-heeled Sherlock collector might, um, kill to get their hands on. We’re not talking People here.

The turn for the weird continues when Gemma and her best friend, Jayne, track the mysterious woman to a local hotel, only to discover her very recently murdered body. Why did the woman leave the magazine hidden in the shop, and why did someone kill her? Naturally, the police have the same questions, and Gemma goes right to the top of the suspect list. This despite the fact that the lead investigator, Ryan, is an old flame of hers. It doesn’t help that the female detective with him zeroes in on Gemma in a really unpleasant way. Talk about tense.

Moriarty the catand a cocker spaniel

And that brings us to the important part of the book, the cat. His name is Moriarty (which might sound rather ominous if you are familiar with the Sherlock Holmes stories). He is a black cat who lives in the shop. He loves and is loved by everyone—except Gemma. With nearly everyone else, he’s friendly, jumping into laps, letting people pet him. But if Gemma gets close to him, he might just take a swipe at her. You know, just for kicks.

Although Moriarty is a constant presence in the shop, he remains mysterious. What motivates him? We’re not sure, but we got some valuable insight into his character in this interview he granted our friend Mudpie over at Melissa’s Mochas, Mysteries & Meows.

Oh, there’s also a dog, a cocker spaniel named violet who lives in Gemma’s home.

Our verdict

We find Elementary, She Read guilty…of making us stay up too late reading, of making us get emotionally involved with a fictional character. We like Gemma Doyle immensely. She is abrupt, abrasive, and annoyingly clever. She would be a difficult person to have as a friend, and yet we would love to have tea with her, just to see her amazing mind at work. Also, old SoLT would like to try to pet Moriarty.

Vicki Delany’s writing is excellent, and the plot is exquisite. We loved the glimpse this book gave us into the world of Sherlock Holmes. It was fun to see books we’ve read and movies and TV shows we’ve watched get mentions, however brief. We did wish for a bit more cat. Maybe in the next book.

Very highly recommended!

A note on the "Paws Up" system: Miss C gives either one or two paws up. One paw is for a good read; two paws is for a great read. She never gives three or four paws because that would require her to lie on her back...and Miss C does not do that!

We received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. We wouldn’t tell you it was good unless we really liked it!

The link below is an Amazon Associates link. If you purchase the book through this link, old SoLT and I could get some coin for our kibble account. Thank you!


  1. We adored this book too, and thank you for sharing our interview! Oh, how I wish this bookshop actually existed, and I completely agreed that Moriarty needs more of a starring role in the sequel!

  2. That sounds like a great story, nice review.

  3. Books that keep us up reading all night are the very best kind! And this sounds like a fun read as well.