This is not a super-serious crime novel, but rather a lightly entertaining one in the mode, I think, of some of John Dickson Carr's wonderful historical mysteries. Criminy, there's even a locked room problem!
The novel is interestingly constructed around two separate investigations of two separate problems conducted by Sabina and Quincannon (this is how the authors refer to them)--which of course we know will ultimately connect!
Sabina is trying to catch a pickpocket, Quincannon a housebreaker (or pannyman, to use the criminal lingo of the book). Chapters are alternately headed Sabina and Quincannon, and we get a good sense of the two authors' distinct writing sensibilities in the chapters on "their" respective detectives.
Sabina is more empathetic and level-headed and less self-centered than Quincannon, who, nevertheless, I found to be a lot of fun (his immodest credo is that he will die in bed at the age of ninety--and not alone).
Once the first murder is discovered about a-third of the way into the novel, the pace picks up and we get an intriguing, fair play puzzle. The second murder offers no less than a locked room problem, which is always great to see (and unexpected) in a modern crime novel.
|Who is this madman?!|
The presence of this bughouse Sherlock has been criticized by a few people on Goodreads, I noticed, who have deemed him irritating. The real Sherlock Holmes was never irritating, they cry! Personally I was much amused with the demystifying approach to the Great Detective (a parody) that is taken in The Bughouse Affair.
Quincannon finds the bughouse Sherlock especially exasperating, because Quincannon himself likes to be the star of the show and his rival really is rather an insufferable know-all. Not everyone is as self-effacing as Watson!
The resolution of the novel cleverly finds each detective--Quincannon, bughouse Sherlock and Sabina--making an important contribution in untangling the web of mysteries.
|two authors plot a bughouse affair|
Quincannon muttered five short, colorful words, none of them remotely of a deductive nature.
[Luther Duff] was short, round, balding, fiftyish, and about as appetizing as a tainted oyster.
Quincannon grinned and added sagely, "The best-laid plans aren't always the best-planned lays."
I also enjoyed Quincannon's visit--for investigative purposes only--to the "parlor house" Fiddle Dee Dee, and I was deeply intrigued by the reference to the Hotel Nymphomania. Maybe we will see something of the latter in the next book!
Of course, there's a will they or won't they? aspect to the relationship between Carpenter and Quincannon left unresolved at the end of The Bughouse Affair. For the answer to that question and what will assuredly be another good mystery, I await the next novel in the series!