Mark Harris
April 18, 2005 AT 04:00 AM EDT

EW reviews two new Sherlock Holmes books

Presenting the latest two exhibits in the ongoing case of the Detective Who Wouldn’t Stay Dead: Alienist author Caleb Carr’s straightforward (though supernaturally tinged) Sherlock Holmes adventure, The Italian Secretary, is written in the style of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (and commissioned by his estate) — it’s set in Scotland and guest-stars Holmes’ brother, Mycroft. Mitch Cullin’s less suspenseful but more intriguing take on the character, in A Slight Trick of the Mind, imagines the great detective in 1947, sifting through his past at the age of 93, tending his apiary, visiting Hiroshima (!), and trying to solve one last puzzle — the enigma of his own failing faculties. Some other detective will have to crack the mystery of what could possibly be gained by attempting to elaborate on another writer’s perfect body of work. But if you’re going to try, best to go a little wild: Cullin’s imaginative leap beats Carr’s constrictedly faithful homage.

Secretary: C+

Trick: B

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