This is a brilliant second installment to the Hudson and Holmes series, and, rather appropriately, has a festive theme. The bulk of the action occurs between Christmas and New Year, so you simply must read it this instant to fully appreciate the atmosphere.
In this novel Holmes and Watson have been tasked with protecting the precious Malabar Rose gemstone, which a crafty magician is keen to purloin. When it inevitably disappears, said conjurer is locked in the midst of an escapology trick onstage – how could it have been him? And what does all this have to do with a clockwork-toy maker, an Ealing clerk going missing, and the glamorous Lola del Fuego?
I think the risk with having Mrs Hudson being a smart cookie is that it might detract from Holmes, but i think Martin Davies manages to balance both; Holmes isn’t buffoonish, but he doesn’t notice everything that Mrs Hudson does.
I love this book’s wry self-awareness, like the moment when Flottie asks Hetty whether she’d like her to explain what’s going on. Hetty says that she’ll wait until Mrs Hudson sits them all down and explains it at the end – the classic detective-genre denouement.
I’m excited for the next in the series, arriving early 2016.
Can you recommend any other detective novels that subvert expectations? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!
Filed under books, Reviews
I love a bit of fictional revisionism, especially when women triumph. I am thus delighted by The Holmes and Hudson series wherein Mrs Hudson proves herself to crucial to solving Sherlock’s cases. Mrs Hudson and the Spirits’ Curse is witty, pacey and involving. The central mystery concerns a tropical curse, a series of locked door murders, and a rather shifty butler.
I particularly enjoyed the brief, unelaborated allusions to past mysteries she’s solved that are just casually slipped in:
‘Had she not realised the importance of the half-eaten omlette and the train ticket for Bodmin, we would never have discovered the bungalow near Scarborough, and Bertie would most certainly have committed bigamy with the undercook.’
What I love most about Mrs Hudson is that her domestic knowledge is part of her superior intellect: she sees things that a gentleman wouldn’t see; she has an army of grocers’ lads and errand boys to give her the word on the street. The juxtaposition of detection and domestic is glorious; every now and then she will whip out a vital piece of evidence that she’s put in the cutlery drawer for safe keeping.
As is the convention in detective fiction, the novels are narrated by an involved, but not titular character. In this case, the housemaid, Flotsam, which nicely mirrors the Sherlock/Watson relationship. Flottie is a great character: observant, sharp and willing to learn.
It’s a great idea, nicely done, and ideal for a long winter evening. I’m reading the next in the series as soon as I’ve finished typing this.
Filed under books, Reviews