I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
In 1915, Sherlock Holmes is retired and quietly engaged in the study of honeybees in Sussex when a young woman literally stumbles into him on the Sussex Downs. Fifteen years old, gawky, egotistical, and recently orphaned, the young Mary Russell displays an intellect to impress even Sherlock Holmes. Under his reluctant tutelage, the very modern twentieth-century woman proves a deft protégée and a fitting partner for the Victorian detective. They are soon called to Wales to help Scotland Yard find the kidnapped daughter of an American senator, a case of international significance with clues that dip deep into Holmes's past.
***2019 Summer of Sherlock***
Holy mixed feelings, Batman! On the one hand, Laurie King is a really good writer. On the other hand, I’m unsure about how I feel about her treatment of Sherlock Holmes.
King has not just borrowed Holmes, she has kidnapped him. And held him long enough that he is exhibiting Stockholm Syndrome and is participating in her nefarious scheme. Most of the time, I could just let go of the Conan Doyle version of our hero and enjoy King’s version, but every now and then the differences would simply slap me in the face and I would be unhappy for a page or two.
I can see why people love this series. After all, Sherlock Holmes is one of the great stories of our culture, in all his arrogant and misogynistic glory. There are LOTS of books that try to shoehorn women of one description or another into the tale and I completely understand this impulse. It’s about representation and women writers are inserting a female dimension into the mythos. I absolutely appreciate that and that one of the reasons that I ended up liking this book as much as I did. But the purists won’t be fans. This is certainly a version of Holmes that I will never recommend to my gentleman friend, who is a devoted aficionado and remains unamused by people messing with what he considers to be perfection.
In short, if you’re not deathly serious about the Sherlock Holmes canon, you may be willing to play along with Laurie King and enjoy the adventures of Mary Russell. If you do treasure the Holmes of Conan Doyle, I would encourage you to give this novel a try, but don’t be distressed if you are unable to get into it.