Laurie R. King, 2016
Premise: Mary Russell is home alone when a visitor with an old grudge comes calling. But this stranger’s issue isn’t with her, or with Holmes, but with… Mrs. Hudson?
Most of the book takes place out of sequence. After a dramatic opening which sets up Russell’s possible demise, the narrative jumps into the past to tell the secret history of Mrs. Hudson, occasionally jumping briefly back to the present to follow the investigation into what happened to Russell.
This series has always lived in that space between pastiche, homage, and fanwork. This volume in particular pulls more from the Holmes canon, drawing connections between various stories and slotting in an expanded dramatic backstory for a minor female character.
As that, it’s perfectly fine. I enjoyed the book, although I found some of the revelations/resolutions off-putting. The past story is a perfectly nice historical fiction before it ever strays into Holmes connections. Russell herself is in very little of the book, although I quite liked her scenes.
This makes the book an odd duck - lacking in the central character of the series overall, but not divorced from it enough to stand alone for fans of other Holmes pastiche/fanfiction.
I personally have little patience for Watsonians - that particular brand of Holmes fan who tries to give every inconsistency or coincidence in the original stories an in-world explanation. I just find it cutesy and irritating. There are continuities in which I enjoy in-world explanations, but Holmes is not one of them.
Connecting disparate stories through a coincidental reused name treads close to that irritation, but I still enjoyed this story.
I just didn’t enjoy it as much as I would a Russell/Holmes story.
3 Stars - A Good Book