Reprint of the Year 2020: The Case of the Baker Street Irregulars (1940) by Anthony Boucher

Metropolis Pictures are adapting “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” for the big screen – surely a cause of rejoicing for Holmesians everywhere – but not when the screenplay is to be written by Stephen Worth, a man described by The Baker Street Irregulars as:

“…the author of many stupid and illogical mystery novels of the type known as hard-boiled and is therefore to be considered as an apostate from the teachings of the Master…(who) has many times expressed in public print his contempt for the exploits of Holmes and his desire to ‘show up that cocky bastard for what he is.'”

To placate the Irregulars, a real-life Holmes fan club, producer F. X. Weinberg invites five of them to act as on-set advisors to “guarantee authenticity and fidelity”(if only the BBC were able to do this!).

However, on their first night together Worth is killed and the Irregulars are the prime suspects – can they use their book learning to solve a real life case? That is when the Adventures begin…

References to the Holmes canon abound although it would take someone more knowledgeable than me to spot them all – this allows the reader to anticipate some minor aspects of the story. I think the only spoiler is for “The Problem of Thor Bridge” – I have seen this story cited in a number of books  and I can’t imagine it being mentioned for any other reason than the one normally cited. There are also codes and ciphers to crack and the reader can definitely have  a go at some of them though you may need “The Return of Sherlock Holmes” collection to hand.

This whizzes along at a quick pace and until it comes to the final accusation and counter accusation. The solution is delivered in a manner that is hugely appropriate for all that has gone before. I hoped to love it and I did. If you’ve not already read it, what are you waiting for! If you already have, get ready to vote!

Boucher himself was a member of the Irregulars and his love for his subject shines through. As well as being a cracking story in its own right, it makes me want to go back to the original source material – something which I will be doing in 2021 thanks to a new set which I got from a charity shop just before Lockdown 2.0 which is much more readable than my massive hardback single volume edition which I normal use as a monitor stand!


5 thoughts on “Reprint of the Year 2020: The Case of the Baker Street Irregulars (1940) by Anthony Boucher”

  1. This does sound like a lot of fun, and I dropped a lot of hints in the run up to Christmas…so here’s hoping Brad was paying attention…


  2. I happily have this.

    Part of the fun is the Sherlockiana. I expect I will correctly identify about 1% of the references, and another 1% will seem familiar. I did a lot better with Hammett by Gores …


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