What I liked: Mrs. Hudson and Flotsam are vividly presented and likable; the inclusion of characters with which I was familiar and new, interesting characters; and plenty of tongue-in-cheek remarks discreetly poking fun at both the canonical Holmes and at itself as a pastiche.
Mrs. Hudson, in this version, is much more than the retiring housekeeper of the canon. She has a past. No, no, not that kind of past. Mrs. Hudson has a reputation for having solved a number of crimes and tricksy situations for past employers who owe her a debt of gratitude. Her effective methods and contacts saved the lives and reputations of some powerful individuals who stand ready to give aid when needed.
Her observations are as skillful as those of Holmes, but her areas of expertise differ.
"Look at it like this, sir." Mrs. Hudson was now engaged in rooting out and discarding an extravagant selection of unrelated comestibles. "When we have discarded the inedible, what remains, however unlikely, will have to be dinner."Mrs. Hudson's knowledge of how kitchens and households run is far superior to that of Holmes, and her ability to see past the obvious and to separate the wheat from the chaff in the most common sense manner make her a formidable opponent to wrong-doers.
"Very simple, Mr. Holmes," returned Mrs. Hudson steadily. "One should never overlook the alimentary."When the orphaned Flotsam is fortunate enough to come within Mrs. Hudson's sphere of influence, she finds safety, mentoring, and an unusual education in social norms, practicalities, and divergent thinking.
Holmes is eccentric and arrogant, but gentler and more flexible in this version. He becomes the foil to Mrs. Hudson's astute, but modest personality. As much as I love Mrs. H. and Flotsam, I was a little uncomfortable with the roles of Holmes and Watson. I did not mind Holmes being more human, but--he was wrong about several things. His detailed and accurate observations often led to incorrect conclusions.
That is my only real quibble with the novel because I loved Mrs. H., Flotsam, the other characters, and the entire entertaining adventure.
One character who interested me was A.J. Raffles, who played a minor role. I Googled him and discovered that he was a fictional character created by E.W. Hornung, Doyle's brother-in-law (he married Doyle's sister). "According to the Strand Magazine, these stories made Raffles "the second most popular fictional character of the time," behind Sherlock Holmes."
The next installment of this series is Mrs. Hudson and the Malabar Rose. It is now on my wish list.
Mystery/Holmes Pastiche. 2002/2015. Print version: 235 pages.