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THE ABDUCTION OF PRETTY PENNY by Leonard Goldberg: Book Review

Is is possible?  Can Jack the Ripper actually be back in London, brutalizing and murdering young women on the streets of the city?

Genes will tell, and Joanna Holmes Blalock, daughter of Sherlock Holmes, is now a highly regarded investigator herself.  As the novel opens, Joanna looks out the window of the flat at 221B Baker Street that she shares with her husband John and his father, Dr. Watson, the colleague of her late father, and asks them to give her their impressions of the woman standing in front of the building.  Although both men are physicians and are accustomed to making skilled medical diagnoses, their skill sets cannot compare to Joanna’s abilities in this specialized area.

After her husband minutely describes the woman’s clothing, he deduces that she is a housewife on a shopping tour.  Joanna begins her response with complimenting his keen eye for colors.  “But unfortunately,” she continues, “you have missed everything of importance.”  So Holmesian, don’t you agree?

Joanna’s explanation of why the woman is there, looking up at their windows, is of course correct.  Judging by the anxious expression on the woman’s face, she intuits she has come to seek help, and her deduction is proven correct when Miss Hudson, their landlady, enters and asks their permission to bring the woman upstairs.

Emma Adams introduces herself and explains that she is the owner of the Whitechapel Playhouse in London’s East End.  The players are currently putting on a production of Romeo and Juliet, and Penny Martin, the young woman who plays Juliet, has disappeared.  Mrs. Adams emphasizes that everyone loves the beautiful actress and that she was thrilled to star in the play, but she had confided to Mrs. Adams that she was fearful that she was surrounded by danger.  And then she disappeared.

Penny’s disappearance is followed by a string of gruesome murders of young women, each one more horrifying than the one before.  Joanna and Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard are fearful that the way in which the killings have been carried out indicate that they may have been committed by Jack the Ripper, who last plied his trade nearly three decades earlier, or possibly by a copycat killer who has studied the Ripper’s crimes only too well.

There can be no doubt that Joanna has inherited her father’s investigative talent as well as her mother’s intelligence, looks, and poise, her mother being Irene Adler, the only woman who ever outwitted Holmes.  Combining the best attributes of both parents, Joanna has made a name for herself in London, and like her father she relishes solving cases that have stymied Scotland Yard.  Jack the Ripper had evaded the law twenty-eight years earlier, and Joanna is determined that if he has returned he shall not escape justice this time.

Leonard Goldberg is a Clinical Professor of Medicine at the UCLA Medical Center and an author whose books have been translated into a dozen languages.  You can read more about him at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

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