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Posted April 23, 2012
There is no denying that The Detective and The Woman is quite aptly named: half of the book is told from the perspective of Sherlock Holmes (in the third person) and the other half from the perspective of Irene Adler (in the first person). The title is also philosophically pertinent – from the very beginning Irene and Holmes are on equal footing. And so begins the story of the Detective who is supposed to be dead, and the Woman who feels she just might be coming back to life.
I do not think it is giving anything away to say that in this book, you will see Holmes and Irene in settings you have not yet imagined. In their joltingly refreshing stint in turn-of-the century Southwest Florida, the Detective and the Woman introduce us to both international and local luminaries. (During this time we could expect them to bump into Mina and Thomas Edison, but Marian Edison? Tootie McGregor? Nelson Burroughs?) Fort Myers in the early 1900’s is a setting unique enough to let you see Sherlock and Irene as if for the first time.
Shining through the action, intrigue, and the prose of The Detective and The Woman are universal themes. Specifically, the book takes a unique perspective on trust and loyalty. Through the character development of multiple people in the story, we are shown rather than told that people are often more capable and more human than we imagine them to be. (Whether this is for the good or bad you must decide for yourself.)
The only thing I will say about the conclusion of this work is that it came too soon. I prefer to think of it as a period of repose, a harbinger of another volume. If you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes, history, or simply a fun read, I believe you will agree with me.
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Posted April 23, 2012
The Detective and the Woman is set in southern Florida during the period when Holmes was believed to be dead, and incorporates Irene Adler into the tale. This is not a new inclusion - many other authors have attempted to do the same and failed miserably. This time, however, Irene is a fully fleshed-out and vivid character, and is put to fantastic use in the story. One of the strengths of this book is that it does not stray into sentimentality or emotionalism. There is a balance throughout of both mystery and character-driven narrative. Irene is believable and complex in this book, and it's fascinating to experience the interaction of strong personalities when she encounters Holmes. While Irene's portions of the narrative are in the first person, Ms. Thomas has wisely avoided trying to write the sections dealing with Holmes's perspective in the same way. This not only helps to preserve the sense of mystery which the character Holmes always retains in the original stories, but it allows us to remain in suspense until the final moments of the book.
As someone who has read through the canon of Sherlock Holmes stories at least twice in its entirety, I usually find myself avoiding any current literature dealing with the subject. Most of the novels or stories written by contemporary authors that I have read seem either to be parodies of Conan Doyle's work, or they are faint ghosts of his style with nothing that truly reflects the spirit of the original. Laurie R. King's novels have been a blissful exception to this problem, and the Detective and the Woman is, as well. I think what sets these books apart is that they neither try to copy Doyle's style, nor do they diverge so fully from it that the stories no longer make sense. Instead, they look at the whole of Doyle's work and interpret it delicately and effectively into something that is both Holmesian and utterly their own. I highly recommend The Detective and the Woman, whether you are an experienced fan of the original canon of Sherlock Holmes stories or someone who has only recently become interested in the great detective!
Posted April 22, 2012
This novel begins with Irene Adler Norton looking at the corpse of her husband, Geoffrey Norton, who died of a heart attack. The new widow turns to the only other life she knows and embarks on a concert tour in her native America. Next, Sherlock receives directions from his brother, Mycroft to leave his refuge in Venice, after the affair of the Reichenbach, to sail for the new world with sealed orders. Sherlock and Irene meet at her concert in Orlando, Florida under Mycroft’s direction. This is the beginning of their second meeting and their first collaboration. Succeeding events involve both with Thomas Edison and his family, with prominent citizens of Fort Myers and with the minions of Colonel Sebastian Moran. The mystery is complex and is not easily dealt with by the duo. Issues of trust cloud their partnership with each of them hiding important data from the other. Their Florida acquaintances must be deceived about their identities and they must forge a working relationship in the midst of lies and deceit on all sides. This is not a typical Sherlockian pastiche. Mycroft is the client and he is sparing with information. Irene is forced to cooperate by the machinations of Mycroft and Sherlock is obliged to remain dead to society to allow the capture of the remains of Moriarty’s mob. The environment is alien to the detectives, both of whom yearn for quiet and seclusion. The ‘case’ is obscure and clues are sparse while mysteries abound. Irene is emotionally bruised by her marriage and her widowhood while Holmes is recovering from his supreme effort to remove “The Napoleon of Crime.” Both know that they are being fed a poor diet of information and neither can trust their partner for support, more or less for truth. The mystery remains impenetrable for most of the narrative. Chapters are written alternately from the viewpoint of Holmes or of Irene. Only the reader understands the doubts and reservations each feels about their collaboration and no one seems to know all the facts. I spent the entire ‘read’ dreading a romance ending with Sherlock and Irene waltzing off into the sunset to a Sigmund Romberg tune, but it simply doesn’t happen. The principals are both too guarded and too afraid of exposure to become lovers. Instead, they work their way into a friendship that is based on their own interests and abilities. The mystery is well-handled and its outcome is logical without being easily discerned. The characters are all well presented and interesting without being distracting or artificial. Since many are taken directly from life, they live their lives in front of the reader without fuss or fury, but only with their own natures and inclinations. The editing is often a problem in first time pastiches, but this author seems to have side-stepped many of the traditional problems. The spelling and grammar are better than I could have done with only one or two minor problems. There are two continuity errors, both of which require special knowledge.
Beyond this, the book is entertaining, puzzling and a lot of fun. I believe the author has hit on the only type of long-term relationship possible for Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler. The details of the narrative only add force to the romantic defects we expect in both of them and their growth and development are truly marvelous to watch. This is not a love story. Instead, it is a coming-of-age tale starring two of our favorite characters.
Reviewed by: Philip K. Jones, April, 2012