Mrs. Hudson and the Spirits’ Curse: A Holmes and Hudson Mystery, by Martin Davies, (Canelo), 235 pages, release date 13 July, 2015
Well, I found another novel riffing on the Sherlock Holmes theme, and, of course, I couldn’t resist asking for a review copy. This has been a good year for Holmes with a number of new Holmes books out: there’s a new Russell/Holmes from Laurie King; the start of a new Holmes/Watson series from Vasudev Murthy and Poisoned Pen Press; The Fifth Heart, pairing Holmes and Henry James; Holmes’ creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, was paired with Oscar Wilde in a new Paranormal Casebooks volume; and Zach Dundas has written a book exploring the history of and variations on the Holmes stories. If we stretch back into late 2014, we also had Anthony Horowitz’ Moriarty and a collection of Holmes stories edited by Leslie S. Klinger and Laurie R. King. And another major collection of Holmes related stories is due out in late October.
That’s a lot of Holmes, but as this publishing boomlet suggests, there’s always room for one more Sherlock. In Mrs. Hudson and the Spirits’ Curse, Martin Davies brings us a Holmes and Watson very much in the Conan Doyle style and pairs them with their housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson, (who turns out to have quite a keen mind), and Flotsam—Flottie for short—a young orphan fleeing attempts to force her into prostitution.
The chief pleasure here is that while Holmes remains the intelligent man we’ve known him as, Davies plays on Holmes’ biases, using the Mrs. Hudson character to offer alternate interpretations for many clues Holmes uncovers. This Mrs. Hudson has a long history of solving crimes and an unusually broad group of acquaintances from all social strata to whom she turns for information and assistance.
At first, Holmes condescends to Mrs. Hudson, but it doesn’t take him long to realize he’s met a mind as sharp as (if also rather different from ) his own. Flottie gets her due as well. The least-respected character here is Watson. He’s companionable, but easily befuddled and uncertain at times in his actions.
The case focused on in Mrs. Hudson is a supposed curse placed on a trio of Englishmen returning to their native country after an unsuccessful attempt to build a fortune in Sumatra. It quickly becomes uncertain whether the men are more threatened by the curse or by one another.
If you’re looking to satisfy a craving for Holmesian reading, Mrs. Hudson will serve you well. The language is reminiscent of Conan Doyle’s, the story is carefully built—and it’s a true pleasure to see a pair of intelligent, self-reliant women alongside Holmes and Watson.