For his last book Val Andrews chose to write a story involving Charlie Chaplin. As ever it mixes fact with fiction, and introduces the reader to the world of vaudeville and film that was so familiar to him. In fact, Val always said that this was his favourite novel to write and research.
At the heart of the story is Hannah Chaplin who was born in London in 1865 as Hannah Harriet Pedlingham Hill. She was the mother of Charlie Chaplin, and was an actress, singer and dancer in her own right. She performed in music halls under her stage name of Lily Harley from the age of sixteen, and even toured Northern America in 1890, just a year after giving birth to Charlie and at a time when her health was starting to give cause for concern. As a consequence she spent spells in asylums while her son’s career was taking off in America.
No wonder then that Chaplin visits a retired Sherlock Holmes to try and track down his mother who he has not seen for some years. Holmes and Watson accept the case which will entail Watson going under cover as a ‘resting’ music hall entertainer. Eventually the duo will end up in Hollywood where Hannah Chaplin will be reunited with her son. The story mirrors real life as Chaplin had Hannah brought to America in 1921 where she was cared for in a house in the San Fernando Valley until her death in 1928.