A Three-Pipe Problem by Julian Symons
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Sherlock Holmes solves the "Karate Killings" case in Julian Symons' "A Three-Pipe Problem". Well, not exactly. Mr. Symons does not bring to life the famous character from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novels. The Sherlock Holmes who is the protagonist of the story is really Sheridan Haynes, an actor who plays the legendary detective in a popular series on British TV. The "recursive" concept is quite neat - not only do we have a fictional character playing another fictional character, but we also have two levels of fictitiousness, the direct fiction of Mr. Haynes emulating Mr. Holmes in real life as well as the "second-degree" fiction of the former imitating the latter in a TV show.
Three men are murdered - a nondescript marketing statistician, a well-known Member of Parliament, and a minor criminal - all killed by karate chops. The police, whose investigation is headed by Chief Superintendent Roger Devenish, are trying to find some commonality between the victims, while Mr. Sheridan, that is Sherlock Holmes in the eyes of most viewers, undertakes a private investigation, helped by London traffic wardens.
Contrary to what the blurb on the cover says, this is not Mr. Symons' best work. Still, this has been an extremely fast - two hours or so - and not unpleasant read, and I do not regret spending the time. It made me ponder, for the hundredth or thousandth time, one of the most puzzling facets of human behavior: why do people tend to identify actors with the characters they play?
Two and a half stars.
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