By now, dear readers, you have ferreted out one of my dirty little secrets, namely my love of Betty Neels and Georgette Heyer romances. Well, I think it’s time that I owned up to another – I am a Sherlock Holmes purist!
What? You don’t read the myriad of spin offs and ‘sequels? Yes, I read a few, notably Nicholas Meyer’s The Seven-Percent Solution and one or two others. Didn’t care for most of them. (The Seven Percent Solution was a partial exception.) Don’t you watch “Elementary,” “Sherlock,” etc.? No, sorry, I don’t. I watched the BBC productions with Jeremy Brett and enjoyed it, but that’s it. Why, you ask? Well, for one thing, it’s hard to beat the well-crafted ‘little problems’ of Doyle’s original stories. Second, later writers often try to change the character of Holmes – make him more like the rest of us and less like Holmes.
So, why this article? Well, I finally decided to read a book by Laurie R. King, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. Now, mind you, I had certain reservations about the whole thing, because it introduced a new type if character and slant to the story -a young, FEMALE person! After all, Holmes as delineated by Dr. Watson (via Doyle) is, if not a misogynist, then within a hairsbreadth of being one. He is irascible, pendantic, and intolerant of ‘lesser minds.’ Thankfully, Ms King neither tries to change the backstory nor the character of Holmes – she works within them. Of course, she tweaks a few things, but does it very well — she attributes the changes to Watson’s and Doyle’s ‘literary license!’ Neatly done! (And I will not divulge anymore, so as not to spoil your fun!)
What of the book itself? Well, I found it easy to read, without being simplistic, well written and engaging, with a well developed plot, i.e., mystery (naturally). Holmes is still Holmes.
The character of Mary Russell is very believable to me, as I have experienced somewhat of her dilemma — an modern Amercan woman in the midst of English culture and tradition. Often a case of ‘sticking out like a sore thumb!’ Our attitudes, thought processes, and what we consider ‘normal’ are often seen by our British cousins as odd, boorish, rude, or just plain strange! So, I like Mary Russell! A lot.
The only character I had a problem with was King’s portrayal of Dr. Watson. While it is a sympathetic rendering, she does tend to overdo his ‘bumbling’ nature — to my mind, a man who served his country well and honorably in the Army can’t be as inept as she sometimes implies. Of course, that view of Watson could be ascribed to the main character, the young Mary Watson. After all, at age 18 or so, how good are any of us at judging another’s character well?
My conclusion? Well, my dear Watsons, I will continue to read this series, since series it is indeed, and report back from time to time. Never fear! The game is still afoot!