Marcia Miller and Bill Pronzini’s The Bughouse Affair: A Carpenter and Quincannon Mystery is a Sherlock Holmes-type clue-driven story. In fact, one of the three detectives claims to be Sherlock Holmes.
Holmes is supposedly hiding out in the 1890’s San Francisco after staging his own murder. One of the real strengths of the book is in the obviously well-researched descriptions of the city.
Quincannon, a former secret service agent, is working to catch some house-breaking thieves. The thieves stole a list of rich clients from the insurance company. Now the thieves are breaking into the houses and stealing only the valuable items from the insurance company's list.
And Carpenter is trying to catch a pickpocket. The pickpocket distracts her victims by stabbing them with a hat pin. One time she stabs too hard. She murders the man.
As you would guess, the two cases dovetail. Someone kills the pickpocket. Quncannon asks the “imposter” Sherlock to help, and by the time the cases conclude, each detective has solved a part of mystery.
But Quincannon, who thinks he is brilliant, is the most inept, always bringing up the rear.
So is Sherlock really Sherlock? Who knows? The book gets its name because Quincannon believes Holmes belongs in an insane asylum, a bughouse. If we are to ever know if this is meant to be the real Sherlock Holmes, that will come in another book down the way.
I picked up this book because I used to read Bill Pronzini in the mystery magazines.
If you like puzzle stories with an interesting gimmick, you might well enjoy The Bughouse Affair.