Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Murder in the Vatican by Ann Margaret Lewis

I loved this book for several reasons. First and foremost, because I am a complete sucker for Sherlock Holmes. And this wasn’t just some mystery solved in a deductive manner like Sherlock Holmes, nor does it merely borrow Sherlock Holmes as a character. No. Two of the three sections were written from the point of view of Dr. Watson, and with language and style so carefully imitative that I had to keep reminding myself that Ann Margaret Lewis wrote this and not Arthur Conan Doyle himself. This reads exactly like any Sherlock Holmes mystery.

Secondly, and I hope you’ll forgive me for using this somewhat uncomplimentary term, but this book is fanfiction! Ann Lewis did not invent Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, or Father Brown and Flambeau, but she uses ALL of them, giving credit to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and G.K. Chesterton. That is so personally encouraging to me because I write fanfiction too. Like Ann, I am using characters and settings invented by someone else, but which the inventor is no longer using. I am not competing with the creator. I am doing him tribute. While I do not know Ann personally, from reading this book, I am forced to conclude that she writes from the same kind of devotion.

Now, while I loved Murder in the Vatican: The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes, I would be remiss if I did not mention my one disappointment. This is partially my fault for not seeing "mysteries" in the subtitle. My disappointment was that this book is really three short stories rather than one novel. While they do tie into each other and make sense as a group, I was disappointed it wasn’t a single, deeper mystery rather than three shorter ones.

That said, I still found each story enjoyable and it did make it somewhat easier to divvy up my reading. I should also mention that being Protestant in no way detracted from my enjoyment of the work. Because Holmes is written true to his character, and he is not a man of faith himself, all the Catholic peculiarities are explained with a patient and non-demeaning way that I truly appreciated.

Holmes was shown to be intelligent but respectful of the Pope and Pope Leo XIII was shown to be concerned for Holmes’ soul as well as respectful of his loyalties to his queen and genuinely admiring of his talent as a detective. I had to remind myself several times that Sherlock Holmes was a fictional character and didn’t really meet Leo XIII, because the dialog and mannerisms and historical detail were so well done that I kept forgetting it was fiction.

If you like Sherlock Holmes, you simply MUST read Murder in the Vatican: The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes. If you simply like good mysteries set in Victorian England or Rome of the same period, this is well worth your time too. Bravo, Ann. Thank you for writing this.

Order direct from publisher

Visit the Holmes Church Mysteries website.


  1. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on this. I loved the book, too!

  2. This is a terrific book - authentic, engaging, witty, and quietly respectful of Catholic traditions.

  3. Thanks for the lovely review, Caprice. It is so generous of you! (And sorry this is late...I'm catching up over the holiday!)

    Blessings for Easter!