My marathon of Laurie R. King’s Holmes and Russell series reached The Moor last night, and left it this morning. When I’m not sleeping, I’ve been reading, though mainly in fits and starts.
In any case, this book is sort of a loose sequel to The Hound of the Baskervilles, which is, of course canon Holmes, in that it takes place in and near Dartmoor, and involves Baskerville Hall, but it it’s not JUST about that.
Instead, this novel sees Holmes bringing Mary to see his old friend the Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould, who lives at Lew House, and is near death (of old age), and wants Holmes to track down the strange appearances of a ghostly carriage and a ghostly dog. Of course this dog and the Baskerville Hound become intertwined, and the investigation involves both Holmes and Mary Russell (who are married by now) getting wet, dirty, and injured.
Need a refresher course on the original story? Since you’re presumably already at your desktop or laptop computer in order to read this, you can click over to YouTube where someone has put up the Granada television series version of The Hound of the Baskervilles in several parts.
I’ve reviewed work by Laurie R. King in this blog before, but finding a couple of her Holmes & Russell novels at Half-Price Books last weekend, and then finding out that she had a new book in the series out this year has spurred me to re-read the entire series.
I’d forgotten how refreshing it could be to immerse myself in a novel where no one had cell phones, or worried about upgrading their computer memory, or complained about having 500 channels and nothing to watch. As well, re-reading these novels with a slightly more mature eye gives me the ability to really pay attention to some of the nuances I’d missed the first time around.
If you’re not familiar with the series, the first novel, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, introduces us to a character who would be a Mary Sue under hands any less deft than Ms. King’s. This Mary – one Mary Russell – is a teenage girl sent from America to live under the “care” of an aunt, who holds her fortune in trust. One of her neighbors in their remote corner of Sussex just happens to be Sherlock Holmes.
The two form a somewhat unlikely friendship, especially considering Holmes’ oft-noted misogyny, that eventually blooms into a partnership of crime-solving equals. Imagine the tag line: He’s a famous detective who retired and took up beekeeping. She’s a young Oxford student studying Theology and Chemisty. They fight crime!
But the thing is, they do.
Of course, they also bicker, banter, and bargain their way through many adventures, and leave the reader – or at least this reader feeling only that the book has ended too soon.
I’ve been a Sherlock Holmes fan for as long as I can remember, first because I read the stories, and second because of the Granada Television series starring (the late) Jeremy Brett. Because my reading patterns tend to be immersion-style (I read everything I can find by one author, all at once, then move on), when I was introduced to Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell series, I read the first three over the space of a weekend. I bought The Moor, started it, then apparently didn’t finish it – probably my reading mood changed mid-way through.
I finally picked it up again the other night, needing something to distract me for a while, and I finished it this morning. As with all the Mary Russell novels it’s fairly formulaic, but then, the original Holmes stories were, as well. The lead character – Holmes protege and wife, several decades his junior – is a bit too perfect at times. Yes, she gets hurt, but she still comes off as a Mary Sue too often. Still, the novels are enjoyable, written in a style very like the original Arthur Conan Doyle creations.
One note: While they can be read singly, these novels are full of in-jokes and references to previous adventures. If you haven’t read the original canon, or if you don’t read these books in order, much of it won’t make sense.