Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index


to e-mail us:

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK



the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

A Samba for Sherlock

Jô Soares

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase A Samba for Sherlock

Title: A Samba for Sherlock
Author: Jô Soares
Genre: Novel
Written: 1995 (Eng. 1997)
Length: 266 pages
Original in: Portuguese
Availability: A Samba for Sherlock - US
A Samba for Sherlock - UK
A Samba for Sherlock - Canada
Elémentaire, ma chère Sarah ! - France
Sherlock Holmes in Rio - Deutschland
  • Portuguese title: O Xangô de Baker Street
  • Translated by Clifford E. Landers
  • O Xangô de Baker Street was made into a film in 1999, directed by Miguel Faria Jr.

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

B : light, fairly humorous but unexceptional entertainment

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Americas . 3-4/1999 Barbara Mujica
World Lit. Today . Fall/1996 Malcolm Silverman

  From the Reviews:
  • "The charm of A Samba for Sherlock isn't in the plot, which is contrived and rather too dependent on fortuitous coincidences, but rather in the interplay of cultures developed through the reactions of the uptight Englishmen and the delightfully free-thinking Bernhardt to the voluptuousness of the tropics." - Barbara Mujica, Americas

  • "It is at once part parody, part pastiche, part crime drama, and part detective story, wherein fact and fiction fuse randomly. Furthermore, its mimetic rendering of (sometimes real) people and (always real) places in 1886 Rio, however significant, is, from the beginning, subordinated to a conscious demythification of official record. In a kindred vein, narrative style is enhanced by dialogic viewpoint, even heteroglossia, which joins with an inter-textuality bordering on palimpsest; and all, in turn, contribute to an unwavering reliance on exaggeration and contrast, almost always of the humorous, Rabelaisian variety." - Malcolm Silverman, World Literature Today

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

- Return to top of the page -

The complete review's Review:

       A Samba for Sherlock sees Sherlock Holmes embark on a Brazilian adventure. The year is 1886, and his assistance is requested by none less than Emperor Pedro II himself. A Stradivarius the emperor had given to a lady-friend was stolen, and Sherlock seems just the man to help retrieve it. At the same time a serial killer starts brutally killing young women, and upon his arrival in Brazil Sherlock is asked to help investigate these crimes as well.
       The serial killer is of a particularly nasty sort, removing parts of his victims -- and leaving some clues behind. It is soon clear that the theft of the violin and the murders are connected -- though that doesn't help much in clearing up matters.
       Coinciding with Sherlock Holmes' (and trusted sidekick Watson's) Brazilian sojourn, fabled actress Sarah Bernhardt is also on tour there. Dom Pedro II also appears in the novel, as do a number of other Brazilian personalities of the time.
       Soares has some fun in painting the Brazilian society of that age, as he imagines it. Much is presented in too cartoonish a manner, but there are some nice bits too, from the unsuitably heavy suits the men wear (for the sake of imitating European fashion) to their enthusiasms (including much swooning over the divine visiting actress). Many of the Brazilian characters, including the local inspector, are at least nicely sketched (if not fully realized).
       A Samba for Sherlock is, of course, an alternate-Holmes story, and true fans of Conan Doyle will probably be disappointed: it's not Holmes in action as they probably would wish for. The hero is presented reasonably true to form, but with a few more blemishes than usual. He arrives in Brazil still virginally pure -- though he does get himself in some entanglements once there. He switches from the preferred cocaine habit to cannabis, without quite getting the dosage right. And he gets himself in some situations that he probably wouldn't in London.
       The most amusing parts of the book are to be found in how Soares gently deflates the great investigator. Repeatedly, Holmes meets someone and deduces immediately everything about them, from family background to what recently happened to the person. Holmes has sound logical arguments for his conclusions -- but time and again it turns out he is completely wrong. Holmes isn't presented as a complete bumbling fool, just a bit full of himself, and Soares strikes close to the right tone in most of these encounters.
       The investigation of the murders isn't a striking success, though Soares does create a bit of tension here. The crimes themselves are very unpleasant, though it is not clear why they have to be so horrific. Bits presented from the murderer's own perspective are more annoying than anything else. Only the final explanation is then modestly satisfying.
       The criminal and investigative parts are the weakest aspects of the novel -- which is, of course, a big flaw, in what is billed as a Holmesesque-mystery-thriller. Fortunately, Soares does redeem himself somewhat with his scenes from Brazilian life, and with his humour. The comedy tends to be far too broad (a ridiculous early scene with a liver going from hand to hand is only one of too many examples), and Soares focusses too much on getting to the joke (rather than telling a good story), but there are a fair number of funny moments and the book is quite fast paced. Some of the jokes are too forced -- Holmes and Watson's role in inventing the Brazilian national drink, for example -- but there are enough laughs to be found.
       A Samba for Sherlock makes for passable entertainment. There are enough clever bits, and enough funny ones, to compensate for the rough edges.

- Return to top of the page -


A Samba for Sherlock: Reviews: O Xangô de Baker Street - the film: Jô Soares: Other books by Jô Soares under review: Other books of interest under review:

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       Brazilian author Jô Soares also worked in film, theatre, and television.

- Return to top of the page -

© 2002-2009 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links