The Next Chapter

Angela Misri's The Detective and the Spy features a budding detective who's related to Sherlock Holmes

The Toronto writer spoke with Shelagh Rogers about the latest book in her Portia Adams Adventures series.
Angela Misri is the author of the Portia Adams detective series. (Cormorant Books, Eugene Choi)

Angela Misri is a Toronto journalist, author, educator and former CBC manager. Misri writes children's books and also detective fiction inspired by her birth country, Great Britain.

Misri has a love for the famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes and has written several essays on the subject. She's also the author of Portia Adams Adventures series, featuring a budding detective named Portia Adams who has inherited 221B Baker Street — the former offices of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

The latest in the series is The Detective and the Spy, where Portia becomes involved in a spy mystery and learns more about her connection to the legendary detective. 

Misri spoke with Shelagh Rogers about The Detective and the Spy.

At home with Holmes

"I had parents who were interested in reading to me. My parents grew up in a very different place than me. They grew up in Kashmir, and they had different reading materials. 

"They had fiction that was written in Hindi and in Kashmiri, but they had access to very few English novels or at least novels that were translated from English to Kashmiri or to Hindi. 

It was a continuation of his love for Sherlock Holmes. He used to read them aloud to me when I was young.

"When my parents moved to England, where I was born in London in the late 1970s, they brought that back with them. Sherlock Holmes, the star of the private detective series created by British author Arthur Conan Doyle, was one of those stories that my dad knew from India having been translated, and he could bring it to me. 

"It was a continuation of his love for Sherlock Holmes. He used to read them aloud to me when I was young. We went through the canon before I was like eight."

A love of mystery fiction

"It was in my teens when I got caught up in the Nancy Drew series. Nancy Drew was like water. I would drink it up, and constantly be reading mysteries like Agatha Christie, Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. 

"I encountered a short story by Stephen King, called The Doctor's Case. It was the first time I'd read a Sherlock Holmes story that wasn't written by Arthur Conan Doyle. That was the moment I realized that other people can write about Baker Street. It was a flashbulb moment. 

"That's probably when Portia was born, when I was 14 or 15. She didn't actually show her face until my 20s in my writing, but that's when I even conceived of the idea of being able to write about Baker Street."

Children's book author Angela Misri suggests that kids spend part of this summer writing to improve critical thinking skills and creativity. She has suggestions on how to make it something they'll want to do themselves.

Portia and 221B Baker Street

"At the beginning of Jewel of the Thames, the first book in the series, she finds out in a will that she has inherited 221B Baker Street. Within a few chapters, she discovers that it's Watson who has left it to her through her mother. She didn't even know Watson was her grandfather on her mother's side. 

Sherlock Holmes had a son, Watson had a daughter, they got married and they had Portia.

"She has this connection to Watson she didn't even know about. If you read the canon, you know that Watson married a lot of humans. He was a marrying type. The first person I postulate that he married is Constance Adams, who then has a child. That's how Portia inherits Baker Street. 

"But she discovers she's also related to Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes had a son, Watson had a daughter, they got married and they had Portia."

Set in the 1930s

"There's a reason that I picked the 1930s for Portia to exist. It's such an interesting time to be a woman in the Western world. You're between the Great Wars. You're gaining all these abilities and rights and you're stepping outside of the house and you're wearing pants. 

It's incredibly important for Portia to be in this time because she's not only fighting things, but she's gaining ground.

"There's so many things happening as a woman. It's incredibly important for Portia to be in this time because she's not only fighting things, but she's gaining ground."

Angela Misri's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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