Rachel Watts has recently moved with her family from their farm in rural Australia to the big city of Melbourne. Watts hates almost everything about her new home — everything, that is, except her neighbor and best friend, James Mycroft. Mycroft is brilliant but unstable, often conducting dangerous scientific experiments in his bedroom. He’s also alone nearly all the time, since his parents both died years ago, and the aunt with whom he lives is never around. Nevertheless, despite the concerns of Watts’ parents, she and Mycroft are inseparable. So when someone they know — a homeless man named Dave who hangs out near the local zoo — is brutally murdered, they decide to investigate the case together. The police assume it was a random act of violence, but Watts and Mycroft suspect that there may have been a specific motive behind Dave’s death. As they investigate, Watts and Mycroft also grow closer, but they both fear the consequences of changing their relationship.
As you might have guessed from the characters’ names, this book owes more than a little to Sherlock Holmes, and I have to say, I really enjoyed it! Though the hero’s name is Mycroft, he possesses all of the frenetic energy, vividness, and charisma of Sherlock. Obviously he would be a pain to live with in real life, but on the page, he’s an utterly compelling character — I can totally see why Watts is harboring more-than-friendly feelings towards him! I liked Watts a lot, too; she provides a much-needed voice of reason to reel Mycroft in when he goes off the rails. The mystery aspect of the novel is well done, although I suspected the culprit fairly early in the book. And in another nod to Arthur Conan Doyle, there’s a dog who plays an important role in the solution of the crime. While the book’s major plotlines are all resolved in the end, the door is definitely open for a sequel — which I have already pre-ordered! I’m not sure why this book struck me so positively, except to say that I enjoyed spending time with these characters and look forward to reading about their further adventures.