JoAnna, writing for the Catholic Phoenix, recommends Ann Margaret Lewis's collection of short stories, Murder in the Vatican: The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes, as a summer reading pick:
After months of telling myself, “I really need to get that book,” I saw it on sale at Ignatius Press and impulsively ordered a copy. It was a good move on my part as I was thoroughly immersed in all three stories. I especially enjoyed the little tidbits of Church history that were slipped into the narrative here and there, as well as nuggets of Latin and references to older prayers and practices common to that era of Catholicism, including many that aree still in use today. Holmes, for example, mentions the newly-penned Prayer to St. Michael to Watson and tells the story of Leo’s impetus for its creation.
In “The Death of Cardinal Tosca,” the main character to emerge is Pope Leo XIII, who summons Holmes and Watson away from a Roman holiday to request aid in the murder of one of his cardinals. The story is rich in detail, from the architecture of the Vatican to the various robes and regalia worn by the pope and his servants, but the character of Leo stands out. He verbally spars with Holmes in the gentlest manner, quoting Thomas Aquinas to the great detective, and takes the opportunity to explain the concept of papal infallibility to a skeptical Watson. He even assists the famed pair by going undercover to help bring the murder to justice, and mentions, in passing, how impressed he was by the devotion of a young fifteen-year-old girl who begged to enter the Carmel convent.
Holmes himself sums up the character of His Holiness by telling Watson, “He enjoys putting me on the spot as you see, but only because he is genuinely pious. He is also imperious, but in a most endearing way.”
“Yes, well,” Watson quips in reply, “I’m used to that.”
“The Vatican Cameos” is intriguing in that Leo XIII acts as a Dr. Watson to Holmes, as Watson himself is attending the complicated childbirth of a devout Catholic woman (for whom he requests the Pope’s prayers). The narrative is told almost entirely from Leo XIII’s perspective, as the construct of the story is a written account of the adventure that Leo sent to Watson after the latter made inquiries to the former, asking for details that Holmes would not provide. Also enjoyable is the cameo (no pun intended) of a young “Deacon” Brown, who is nearly ready to be ordained a priest. Leo’s account sparkles with wit and humor, and at its conclusion we discover the role the Vatican played after Sherlock Holmes’ “death” at the hands of Professor Moriarty.