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Sherlock Holmes fans will delight in Pirie's fine first novel, a "factional" account of Arthur Conan Doyle's early life that relates how his association with Edinburgh physician Joseph Bell was the inspiration for his Holmes character. Pirie vividly evokes the dark ambience of Victorian England, his prose is elegant, and his gift for mimicking the slightly haughty tone of Doyle's writing is uncanny. Training to become a physician, Doyle hears a lecture by Dr. Bell, whom he immediately brands as pompous. His dislike gradually turns to respect after he becomes Bell's clerk and assists the doctor with the murder investigations he performs for the police. Doyle's first taste of crime solving comes with the case of Heather Grace, who asks for help with a mysterious eye complaint but also claims she is pursued by a terrifying apparition. Although doubting the veracity of her story, Doyle is so besotted by Heather's beauty and charm that he determines to unravel the mystery but finds himself caught in a disturbing web of deception, greed, and violence. It's hard to say which is more mesmerizing, Pirie's cleverly constructed plot or the oddly moving--albeit fictional--portrayal of Doyle's complex personality. A must-read, especially for historical mystery buffs and Baker Street irregulars.