Eric Olsen, 2006.

Review published Mar 2007.

Arthur and George is fiction in the same way that In Cold Blood is fiction. That is, it is a retelling of actual events, using the real names for the people involved. George, son of an English vicar and Scottish mother, is out of place in the tiny English village where he has grown up. He and his family are harassed and threatened, and George eventually is sent to jail. Arthur is Arthur Conan Doyle, wealthy and famous creator of the Sherlock Holmes stories. When Arthur learns of George's plight he decides that it is his responsibility to use his Sherlockian talents to restore George's freedom and reputation.

The writing style is engaging, even addictive. We read along wondering what will happen -- the true test of suspense or mystery writing. The author respects both of his protagonists, even when it would be easy (though cheap) to condescend to the idealistic George, or to mock the strange customs of his family.

But it is at heart a retelling of an event, not a creation of an author's imagination. Barnes has a reputation for subtlety and perhaps this is more subtle than I realize, but we would have preferred reading the same material as non-fiction, with sources listed and more witnesses called. A mild disappointment.