ARC Review: “A Three Book Problem,” by Vicki Delany

Another day, another cozy mystery to snuggle up with on these cold winter nights (in New York, at least). While A Three Book Problem is set in October, it still manages to evoke the same sense of large sweaters, mulled wine, and longing stares out the window (just at leaves instead of snow). And for the first time in a while, I am only *slightly* behind on reviewing this ARC, which came out yesterday (thank you, Netgalley and Crooked Lane Books for indulging my mystery obsession!) This is number seven in the Sherlock Holmes Bookstore Mystery series, which I have been a passionate devotee to since receiving an ARC of book one, Elementary, She Read. Of course, I couldn’t be more excited (and neither could my cats, aptly named Sherlock, Watson, and Moriarty). So without further ado…

From the Publisher:

Gemma Doyle is back on the case in bestselling author Vicki Delany’s seventh Sherlock Holmes Bookshop mystery when a poisoned dart ends in demise.

It’s a crisp, early October weekend, and business is slowing down as fall descends at the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium and adjacent Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room. Wealthy philanthropist and prominent Sherlockian David Masterson has rented Suffolk Gardens House, where he plans to entertain his friends in a traditional English country house weekend.

As the chosen caterers, Jayne Watson and Gemma Doyle get to work preparing lavish meals and setting up Sherlockian books and props for entertainment. Meanwhile, police detective Ryan Ashburton has taken time away from his duties to assist in the kitchen. It quickly becomes apparent that David’s guests don’t like each other–or their host. Plus, some of them aren’t even acquainted with the adventures of the Great Detective.

Before Gemma can ponder their relationships a poisoned dart sails through the window of the library, presenting Gemma Doyle with a three-book problem. 

What I Loved:

  • The Country House Mystery. David brings a group of Sherlock Holmes lovers (and some unsavory characters) to a replica English country house in Cape Cod. When someone decides David is better off dead with a dart in his neck, our favorite sleuth Gemma decides to investigate. However, the only person who could have done it was at the manor house for the weekend… This is my absolute favorite setting of the mystery genre. A classic Agatha Christie set up, the country house mystery gives the audience a fighting chance of figuring out “whodunnit,” and in classic style, the murder victim has enemies galore. Ms. Delany executed the setting perfectly.
  • Gemma’s Investigation. One of my biggest gripes about this series as a whole is that Gemma butts into murder investigations despite knowing that her local police and detectives (handsome boyfriend Ryan and partner Estrada) are actually competent and capable of doing their jobs. It is what broke her and Ryan up years ago, and a constant struggle in their relationship now. However, in A Three Book Problem, Gemma manages to balance her natural insatiable curiosity with restraint in light of the official the police investigation, and generally waits until Ryan and Detective Estrada ask for her opinion before giving it. And she still catches the killer and hands the case to them in a neat bow, but does it respectfully.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • The Pace. As much as I enjoyed reading about the intriguing dinner party and tension building, it too way too long for the murder to happen. Almost a third of the book is build up, then the murder, then an indeterminate amount of time waffling without a lot of mystery solving. I found myself skimming more than I should have.

While the pace was my only main complaint about Three Book Problem, this wasn’t make favorite in the series. It felt a little stagnant, even though it ended on a high note (scenes with Gemma and Ryan are always high points). While this “carbon neutral” installation of the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery series is not the best in the series, it certainly didn’t turn me away either.


For lovers of Vicky Delany’s Sherlock series, A Three Book Problem may not be the best, but it is still an enjoyable and light addition to a wonderful series. Three waves out of five, and still looking forward to what’s next! For those who are new to the series, I highly recommend reading book one (Elementary, She Read), which you can order here. If you are a veteran, you can order A Three Book Problem here (as always, on sale at Bookshop!


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