The idea behind Philly crime novelist Duane Swierczynski’s “The Crimes of Dr. Watson” is that he’s been given a lost manuscript of Dr. John H. Watson, sidekick to master detective Sherlock Holmes, written from the confines of prison.
Watson has been arrested for burning down Holmes’ famed 221B Baker Street office, but pleads his innocence. In the days leading up to the event, Watson received a series of strange correspondence, which he thinks can’t come from anyone but Holmes; the problem is, Holmes was believed to be deceased at the time. Without the ace deductive skills of his friend, how can the doc prove he’s not guilty? That’s up to you.
See, the oversized “The Crimes of Dr. Watson” is “an interactive Sherlock Holmes mystery,” with the clues included as appropriately aged-looking, pull-out objects hidden in envelopes and folders affixed to the pages. A matchbook, a telegram, an arrest report, pieces of a torn page, a theater ticket, a full newspaper spread “ all of these clues are here for the reader to see and study, in order to solve the puzzle. (For those who don’t have the patience or the know-how, the solution is sealed at the end of the book.)
Swierczynski does a good job in aping Watson’s voice, making this as close to an original Arthur Conan Doyle story as you’re going to get. But it’s the interactivity that makes “Crimes” really worth your time. It’s one thing to read a mystery and try to guess the outcome, but it’s another to read one and be asked to do it yourself.