Monday, August 16, 2010

A new Sherlock Holmes


I used to think of Sherlock Holmes as a brilliant, but egotistical loner, who gave little thought to anyone but himself--and perhaps Dr. Watson--or his cases.  A 15 year old American girl taught me differently.
     Walking in the Sussex Downs to escape her tyrant of an aunt, Mary Russell stumbles--literally--on a gaunt, old gentleman sitting on the grass watching bees.  It is none other than the great consult detective Sherlock Holmes, and through the eyes of Russell and the relationship between this pair of intelligent and observant characters we see a Holmes that is deeper and fuller and more...
human than Conan Doyle’s. 
     Woven into the adventures of this unlikely pair is a portrait of two complex people: he an aging British criminologist--a man of science, and she a young American--a Jewish theological scholar.  I was skeptical, I confess, thinking, “Oh, come on, now!  Sherlock Holmes teaming up with a 15 year old American girl?  The Baker Street Irregulars are one thing, but a 15 year old American girl?”  But I was utterly...charmed.  It seems like that shouldn’t be a word applied to the Sherlock Holmes I had read about in Conan Doyle's stories.
     Add to that skillful, intelligent plot twists, fascinating characters, and utterly fantastic but plausible adventures and you have a beguiling read from start to finish.  Russell assists Holmes when she comes back to Sussex from her studies at Oxford, and when an American senator’s daughter is kidnapped, she joins in the rescue attempt, and the the subsequent tangle with a master criminal.
     History, philosophy, science and setting all intertwine with the mystery to be solved.  The intelligent plot and substories keep the mind engaged and, sometimes, the heart pumping.  Britain and the world in the WWI era are skillfully evoked as the reader is drawn in.
     I was prepared to not like this book but I am now a die-hard fan of the series that it started and whenever I finish one I can’t wait for the next, to see where life and crime and the world take this pair next.
     If you liked Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, if you
didn’t like Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes you’ll like “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice,” by Laurie R. King.

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