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article imageNew Canadian Author Salutes Sherlock Holmes Special

By Cate Kustanczy     Mar 28, 2014 in Entertainment
Fans of mystery fiction have a new hero to investigate: Portia Adams. Created by ex-CBC producer Angela Misri, Jewel Of The Thames (Fierce Ink) pays tribute to the work of Arthur Conan Doyle while being infused with a deep love of history and character.
Part of a planned series, Jewel Of The Thames: A Portia Adams Adventure, while considered young adult fiction, has an appeal that goes far past its intended demographic. Misri, a long time Sherlock Holmes and Nancy Drew fan, opens her premiere novel in the dreary Toronto of the 1930s, and moves her action to New York, then London, where the bulk of the narrative unfolds; her erstwhile, plucky heroine comes to live at 221B Baker Street, an address made famous by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
“I’ve read Sherlock Holmes mysteries since I was in grade school,” the Calgary-born Misri explained in a recent email exchange, “but it wasn’t until I read a short story by Stephen King called "The Doctor’s Case" that I realized that I too could make a mark on Baker Street. Portia Adams the detective rose up and out of that realization, and began whispering in my ear ever since.”
Those whispers turned into shouts when Misri decided to leave the CBC in 2013, after working at the national broadcaster for over a decade. Confession: I met the author when she and I worked together briefly at at radio syndication desk in 2005. She struck me as intimidatingly smart, dedicated, and lovingly obsessed with details. Such qualities are immediately discernible in Jewel of the Thames, and she admits that what initially drew her to journalism is what now lends her to writing within the mystery genre. “I’m maddeningly curious … I love figuring things out, so it only seemed natural to provide mystery to my readers.”
Jewel Of The Thames follows the orphaned, Canadian-British, detective-in-training Portia Adams on the trail of three different but linked mysteries involving stolen gems, a mysterious reading assignment, and a missing child. Fans of the Conan Doyle series will find a delicious buffet of references to the Holmes tales, while King fans will appreciate the careful skill with which suspense is built up and watchfully maintained. Like the Harry Potter series or The Hunger Games -- Misri is a fan of both -- there is a discernible mix of lively storytelling, vivid characterization, snappy dialogue, and atmospheric richness, all of which lend Jewel Of The Thames a highly addictive quality. Misri paints a captivating portrait of 1930s England as she moves her independent-minded heroine between adventures in both city and country, from the damp banks of the Thames, to the doily-dotted parlors of north London, to a train rushing through the Scottish countryside in blackest night.
Writing required a good deal of advance work and detailed research. Misri carefully studied books and speeches from the era, viewed numerous films, examined books on geography, investigated historical maps, and “spent hours in the library going through black and white photos.” Being accurate to the details of the age was of the utmost importance, though as she notes, “at some point you have to accept that no one is perfect. I worked very very hard to try and get everything right from the patois to the fashion to the sights and smells of London, but at the end of the day, I never lived in 1930s London… so I am bound to have made a few mistakes. That said, I have the best editor in the world, and I have more trouble believing he allowed any mistakes to get through.”
 My interests in fiction are long-term and not bound by my age   says the 39 year-old wife and mothe...
"My interests in fiction are long-term and not bound by my age," says the 39 year-old wife and mother. " I have a sci-fi novel I’m writing now with a sixteen year-old heroine, who may turn out to be the antagonist or the protagonist, depending on how it plays out!"
Angela Misri
The stories that make up Jewel of the Thames were first created as stand-alone pieces together with several other “casebooks,” as Misri calls them, borrowing the term Conan Doyle used for his Holmes tales. Discovering the desire most publishers have for full-length novels, she re-jigged the first three, added a larger story arc, and sent the lot out, a whole and complete work. She plans on continuing the Portia Adams series with further casebooks, and has already been thinking about a film version. Who would she like to play her curious heroine? “Katie McGrath (BBC’s Merlin, she plays Morgana) or Emily Blunt,” she muses. “There is a real appetite for great, strong female characters out there.”
The one thing she thinks is missing the most in contemporary fiction? “Failure. I think it’s unrealistic for a detective to solve every mystery they come up against. I believe we are lacking failure in the contemporary mystery fiction genre right now, especially on TV and in movies.”
Jewel Of The Thames explores the idea of failure with unblinking honesty -- but overall, it succeeds, brilliantly, in introducing us to a figure who may well be literature’s next great detective.
More about Mystery, Fiction, Canadian, Sherlock holmes, arthur conan doyle
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