Friday, June 23, 2017

Dr. Sam: Johnson, Detector

Lillian de la Torre's historical mystery series Dr. Sam: Johnson, Detector are being republished by Open Road Media. I could not pass up the chance to read about a fictional Dr. Johnson as a solver of mysteries.

Born in 1709, Dr. Johnson is best known for creating the first English dictionary and for his novel Rasselas.

His young friend Boswell. whom he met in 1763, recorded Johnson's sayings and their travels, and he wrote The Life of Samuel Johnson, which Harold Bloom named as the greatest biography in the English language

Johnson is one of the most widely quoted English writers, thanks to his lively dictionary definitions.

Lexicographer: A writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge that busies himself in tracing the original, and detailing the signification of words.
 Pension: An allowance made to any one without an equivalent. In England it is generally understood to mean pay given to a state hireling for treason to his country.
from Johnson's dictionary 
Johnson's brilliant mind was housed in a body wracked with flaws; Johnson had scrofula as an infant and it left him partially blind and deaf and with scarred skin. He suffered from weird ticks and a compulsive disorder. He was oversized and badly dressed.

These short mystery stories are told by Boswell. The author has noted the historicity of events, people, and places used in the stories. De la Torre also employs 18th c spelling and language, which I found delightful. (But then I went through a period addicted to 18th c novels!) I was happy to come across Frances Burney as a girl in one story. Burney became a successful novelist. Burney's comedy of manners novel Evelina influenced Maria Edgeworth and Jane Austen.

For Johnson, the mysteries they come upon are puzzles to be solved and like the best detectives in literature, he is able to use what Boswell calls racionization. The mysteries are entertaining, but with a 'cozy' mystery feel.

The nine stories include diverse settings, including The Wax-Work Cadaver, The Flying Highwayman, The Monboddo Ape Boy, Prince Charlie's Ruby, and The Stolen Christmas Box. De la Torre includes a Life of Johnson, and a preview of The Detections of Dr. Sam: Johnson.

Lillian de la Torre was a professor and prolific writer. Her short stories appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and one of her teleplays was produced by Alfred Hitchcock's television series.

I enjoyed these stories.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Dr. Sam Johnson, Detector
by Lillian de la Torre
Open Road Media
publication June 24, 2017
$9.99 ebook
ISBN: 9781504044530

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