Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Conan Doyle Notes: The Secret of Jack the Ripper

The author, Diane
Gilbert Madsen with a
Corona Typewriter.
(I used to type on one
of those. Memories!)

            I’m a Sherlock Holmes fan, which is why many of my reviews lately are of Sherlock-related books. Today’s review, however, is of a contemporary mystery novel revolving around notes left by Sherlock’s creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.       
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,
who was as great a sleuth
as his brain child.
          In The Conan Doyle Notes, new papers have been discovered that shed light on a question that haunted Victorian London’s populace: Who was Jack the Ripper? People are willing to kill for these papers, and the first chapter gets off to a rip-roaring start:

            DD McGill, a Chicago insurance investigator, is tailing a client suspected of insurance fraud when her bookseller friend, Tom Joyce, calls about an exciting discovery: While appraising the library collection at the David Joyce Grange estate, he found a small brown leather diary suggesting Grange had Doyle’s manuscript, The White Company, as well as notes proving Doyle knew who the Jack the Ripper was. Then DD hears a sound as if the phone has been dropped and Joyce’s voice yelling someone is trying to kill him. The phone goes dead.
            After calling 911, DD races to the mansion. An ambulance has taken Tom Joyce to the hospital. At the hospital, she learns he is in a coma due to injuries from falling down stairs. But DD suspects he was pushed. Why else would he say someone was trying to kill him? And who would have pushed him? She returns to the mansion, masquerading as Tom Joyce’s assistant appraiser, and the game is afoot.

            Madsen presents the reader with a fine array of suspects: Ivy Douglas, niece of the Dowager (Grange’s son’s wife who mysteriously died a year earlier.) Philip Green, a Sherlockian expert working with the estate. John Turner, “The Pretender” – who claims his mother was a mistress of one of Grange’s sons and wants his share of the estate. James M. Dodd, from Morrison, Morrison and Dodd Executors. Mr. Toller, the butler, and his wife, who knows secrets. More and more names unfold as DD investigates in a highly unorthydox manner. There is no way I can tell you how she investigates without giving spoilers right and left. More deaths follow, and I can’t tell you who the victims are, either. But the plot twists are dazzling and keep you guessing in every chapter.
             Interesting subplots are woven in: Mitch Sinclair, DD’s hunky boyfriend is involved in hush-hush work that keeps him in Paris. Woodley, DD’s colleague in the insurance fraud case, is getting surly. And someone is stalking DD, leaving threatening notes under her door.
            A quirky supporting cast adds spice: The 80-year-old Carabine twins, across the hall from DD are vigilant crime stoppers and follow the Cook County Crime Stoppers website, hoping to get on the show. Auntie Elizabeth, “The Scottish Dragon”, claims she is “fey” and knows things. Wolfie, Tom Joyce’s pet wolf, only eats burgers from McDonald’s. Karl Patrick, DD’s lawyer, is the lawyer you definitely would want on your side.

            DD is an engaging sleuth – smart, with a humorous slant on life, a bit too impulsive for her own good, and a loyal friend.
            The author’s setting details are just the right brush strokes to plunge a reader in DD’s Chicago without distracting from the plot’s forward movement.
            An added bonus is the way information about Doyle is woven into the story. This is a book to be enjoyed on many levels.

            Quote: “Everybody knows he wrote the famous Sherlock Holmes stories, but I had no idea he also introduced downhill skiing to Europe; metal helmets for combat soldiers; the inflatable life preserver for sailors; energetically championed divorce reform; and was an early proponent of constructing a tunnel connecting England and France.”

You can follow Diane Gilbert Madsen on Twitter
You can also visit her on Facebook  
Visit Diane’s Website (where you can see a cool trailer and read the first two chapters.)
Visit her Blog (and sign up for her newsletter.)
And you can buy the book at Amazon 

Diane Gilbert Madsen is the author of the award winning DD McGil Literati Mystery Series including “A Cadger’s Curse;” “Hunting for Hemingway” and her newest, “The Conan Doyle Notes: The Secret of Jack the Ripper,” which was awarded Honorary Mention at the London Book Fair and the Chicago Writers Association 2014 Book Awards, garnering 5-star reviews such as:

“Diane Gilbert Madsen’s “The Conan Doyle Notes: The Secret of Jack the Ripper” was the best book I’ve read in a long, long time. I was hooked by page six and couldn’t stop reading. Spellbinding, intriguing and with a beguiling wit, Ms. Madsen delighted me to no end.” --  Catherine Lanigan, author, Romancing the Stone,  Jewel of the Nile & Love Shadows.
Diane is the former Director of Economic Development for the State of Illinois where she oversaw the Tourism and the Illinois Film Office when The Blues Brothers and The Hunter were being made.  She later ran her own consulting firm and is listed in The World Who’s Who of Women and Who’s Who in Finance & Industry and in the 2014 edition of Who’s Who for Executives and Professionals, Florida Chapter.

Diane is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, the International Association of Crime Writers, the Chicago Writers Association, and the Florida Writers Association.  She has published articles in The Hemingway Review, PBS Expressions Magazine; Mystery Scene Magazine; Mystery Reader’s Journal; Sisters in Crime Newsletter and The Write City Magazine, and has an upcoming article in the fall issue of The Baker Street Journal.  Diane was a guest speaker at the 2013 International Hemingway Colloquium in Havana, Cuba.

She lives with her husband Tom and Angel, their Japanese Chin, at Twin Ponds, a 5-acre wildlife sanctuary on Cape Haze in Englewood, Florida. She is a member of the Caladonian Club of Florida West and the St. Andrews Society of Sarasota as well as The Pleasant Places of Florida Sherlock Holmes Association.            


  1. I love a good mystery, especially anything revolving around Sherlock:)

    1. Hi, Jennifer. So do I. He's such a long-lasting character, and the stories are brilliant.

  2. Oh my, Elizabeth, you promised to bring us a good one! This is over the top. A lovely write up (smile).

    Diane Madsen has such wonderful awards, and organizational memberships... I sit back in awe.

    Then you give the story blurb and I'm fascinated, believing , "This could be REAL." I'm convinced Sir Arthur, himself, would gladly turn the pages on this one, devouring every word!

    I'm copying every link, and will get back to you. (smile).

    1. Hi, Dixie, I love your enthusiasm! It was really a fun read.

  3. This sounds like a page turner for sure!

    1. Hi, Catherine, yes it is. Even the second time through.

  4. This sounds like a real winner. Thanks for the review. I'll definitely put it on my staggering TBR list.

    1. Oh, Rosi, I know about TBR lists. Sigh. So many books (good ones!), so little time.

  5. That is an intriguing list of suspects, and there's nothing more fun than quirky cast members. Wishing Diane (and DD) lots of success! Have a lovely weekend Elizabeth! :)

  6. Thanks for stopping by, Lexa. You are so right. I especially like stories with quirky characters. Hope you have a great weekend too.