Excerpt: ELEMENTARY – THE GHOST LINE by Adam Christopher (Titan)

ChristopherA-Elementary-GhostLineElementary is one of my favourite TV shows at the moment, so I was very interested when I saw that Adam Christopher would be writing some tie-in novels. The first novel is The Ghost Line, out this week. Titan Book were kind enough to send me this excerpt to share. First, though, the synopsis:

A brand-new novel tie-in for the popular Elementary TV series.

A summons to a body found riddled with bullets in a Hell’s Kitchen apartment is the start of a new case for Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson. The victim is a subway train driver with a strange Colombian connection and a mysterious pile of money, but who would want to kill him? The search for the truth will lead the detectives into the hidden underground tunnels of New York City, where more bodies may well await them.

Adam Christopher is the author of a number of other novels, including Empire StateSeven Wonders and Hang Wire (Angry Robot), and The Burning Dark and The Machine Awakes (Tor US/Titan UK).

Onwards with the excerpt…


Watson thought about waiting for the right moment to cut in, but quickly realized that, actually, the right moment would never come. She moved to the desk and waved her phone at Holmes, in case that would get his attention.

It didn’t.

“That was—”

“Captain Gregson,” said Holmes. Still staring at the screen, he held one finger up in the air toward Watson while he continued to type single-handedly. Watson raised an eyebrow.

“Yes,” she said. “He’s picking me up at seven to go to the museum gala. But he also wanted me to double check that you’re sure you don’t want to go with me instead.”

Holmes snickered but he kept his nose an inch away from his screen. “Captain Gregson is a mighty intellect among the detective class,” he said, now typing again with both hands. “He’ll be a more than adequate assistance at the exhibition’s grand gala opening, and I dare say his well-calibrated features will look rather more at home in black tie than my own. Rest assured, you will make the most elegant undercover couple.” He stopped typing and turned to face Watson. He swayed slightly on his chair, as though he were a little drunk, but Watson recognized the body language—the haptic communication as Holmes himself would have described it. He was up to something.

Watson lifted one arm to her hip. “‘Well-calibrated’?”

Holmes pursed his lips. “Perhaps reminiscent of an older Jason Priestley.”

“Jason Priestley?”

“But older,” said Holmes. “Much, much older.”

Watson sighed and let her arm drop. “Okay,” she said. This was turning into one of those conversations.

“And besides,” Holmes continued, confirming Watson’s earlier unspoken suspicion, “I have my own little covert investigation to organize.”

Watson frowned. “Gregson also said he smoothed things over with New York City Water Board. Apparently they weren’t too impressed with us entering one of their pumping stations without proper permission.”

“Ha!” said Holmes, turning back to the screen and resuming his online discussion. “Liam Macnamara’s killer likewise entered the station without permission. Perhaps, once he is apprehended, the Water Board can send a stern reprimand to him at Sing Sing.”

“But shouldn’t the NYPD be working with the Water Board anyway to check out that tunnel?”

“No need,” said Holmes. “I have that matter in hand even as we speak. Well, even as you speak at me while I try to further our investigation.”

Watson ignored the jibe, and pointed her phone at the computer. Holmes hadn’t stopped typing even as he spoke to her. “So what are you doing? Reaching out to Everyone again?”

At this, Holmes stopped work, withdrawing his hands from the keyboard like he’d been burnt. “In this particular instance, no,” he said. Then he pushed his chair out from the desk, and gestured not to the dark website on his primary display, but to the tablet computer sitting on its stand next to it. Watson walked around the desk and lifted the tablet to get a better look.

The device showed a map—it was recognizably Manhattan, but it was old, a scan of an historic document. Watson slid the image around with her fingers, then zoomed in on a spot. There were some streets labeled, but they were sketchy, a ghostly overlay across a series of darker parallel lines that didn’t seem to obey the grid system that covered most of the island. Swiping sideways revealed another map, equally old and faded, and there was the echo of a rubber stamp across one corner that said received january 1899. This map was not of the entire island of Manhattan, but just an area encompassing Hell’s Kitchen and, to the north, Lincoln Square. As with the first map, the streets were overlaid with a twisting maze of dark lines.

Holmes craned his neck, trying to see the tablet from his seat. Watson glanced sideways at him.

“These aren’t street maps of Manhattan. Or subway maps.”

Holmes nodded. “Very astute. The New York City subway system wasn’t opened until 1904.” He raised himself up a little and reached over to the tablet, swiping sideways to show a third map. This was still a scan, but much newer. There was a large legend in the bottom corner, providing a key for the various bold lines, each labeled with letters and numbers. The date on this map was 1936.

“These are maps of New York City’s sewer systems,” said Holmes. “Or rather, the sewer and wastewater network as it existed up to the early part of the twentieth century.”

Watson went to hand him back the tablet, then she paused, holding it a few inches from his outstretched hand. A sinking feeling was rapidly developing somewhere near her diaphragm.

“Wait—this is your covert investigation? You’re going to go looking in the sewers yourself?”

“Your deduction is correct, Watson.”

Watson surrendered the tablet. “But these maps are antiques. Don’t you have something more recent?”

Holmes shook his head. “‘Antique’ is one word to describe them,” he said. “Another word is ‘useless.’” He looked up at his partner. “Since 9/11 it is difficult, if not impossible, to get current maps of the sewer network. It is considered a security risk of the highest magnitude.”

“That makes sense, I guess. Could you put in a request through Captain Gregson?”

“I could, but that would involve forms and red tape and official requests in triplicate and would take weeks, if not longer. That is time we simply do not have. A man’s body is already cooling somewhere in a city morgue. We must act, and act now.”

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