What do you think Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes detective stories lack of? I might say: a feminine aspect. Of course, Sherlock Holmes is very ‘masculine’ with his astounding logical reasoning talent. Most of his stories are about how to solve a complex mystery using logic, knowledge and some brave maneuvers. In short, it’s about brain and some muscles, which made it very masculine. But what about adding a small (just a small) portion of feminine touch in it? Wouldn’t it be interesting? Aren’t you wondering, how Holmes would react if he ever met a female who matches his talent? He has found one, Irene Adler, in Doyle’s stories, but she was his adversary and her appearance is less than sufficient to be paired with Holmes.
Now, Laurie R. King seems to know what few of us (including me!) have been wishing; she brings an orphanage Jewish-American teenage girl named Mary Russell to accidently meet the retired Holmes in a quiet little village of Sussex. Already passing the age of fifty, Holmes now busies himself with beekeeping when Mary Russell stumbles across him on a hill. At that instant Holmes realizes Russell’s rare intelligent brain, and decides to make her his apprentice as well as friend. When Russell does not go to Oxford to study theology and mathematic, she does her education and training with Holmes. During this apprenticeship, Russell and Holmes solve several cases, starting the partnership of their detective career.
Reading this book is immensely entertaining. The first book in the series acts as an introduction to Mary Russell’s personage—which I like instantly—and her apprenticeship with Holmes. It is of course quite awkward for Holmes—and for us too, who follow his actions in Doyle’s stories—to be in the friendly presence of a girl, but that actually makes this story more interesting. I always like characters from books that are presented humanly with emotion, and sometimes make mistakes. Holmes here seems to me more human, not a genius man-robot as Doyle wrote it.
Instead of writing another Holmes story; King writes how Holmes influences Mary Russell in her memoirs. It is how Russell sees Holmes from her point of view. Watson’s approach has been much influenced by his worshipping of Holmes’ genius talent, something that he doesn’t possess; but in Russell, she shares Holmes’ talents and that gives her a wider point of view of Holmes, because she can look at things beyond his genius brain. Or, is it simply because women can look deeper into men? :)
Besides the cases Russell and Holmes must solve—in fact they are not very interesting, except for the last one—King put more of her focus in building personal relationship between Russell and Holmes. And I must say that this is actually the most interesting part of this book. At their first meeting, Holmes even mistakenly think that Russell is a boy—which is not surprising, considering Holmes’ view on his opposite sex (and also because Russell dressed like a boy at that time). Before Russell entering his life, Holmes takes female as brainless creature. However, dealing with Russell forces him to make an exception; certain female actually HAS brain, and slowly but surely Holmes can see that Russell possesses a unique talent he had never seen before (except in himself).
It is also interesting to see Holmes’ way of accepting Russell into his life. He takes Russell as Russell, not as a female, by ignoring every aspect of her sex. It is simple at first, because Russell was 15 years old girl with boyish appearance at that time; but it becomes more complicated when she grows up to be a young woman. Then Holmes is forced to take her as a woman, and…really….it’s quite funny to see Holmes’ awkwardness with Russell feminine aspects, not mentioning that a man and a woman in the early 20th century could not spend much time alone without creating scandals.
Anyway, time flows, and I can see that Russell-Holmes relationship is leading to a more affectionate one. The question is now, what kind of love they are sharing? As friends? Father and daughter? Or more intimate than that, as lovers? From Russell, it is more clearly, for she confesses that her love for Holmes is growing. But what about Holmes? One thing is clear, his sharpness is slowly fading. After a bombing that wounded him, Holmes is disturbed by two things. First, that he is facing an enemy who knows him very well while he doesn’t have any clue of him/her. Second, that this time, his brilliant logic is beaten by his emotion. Knowing that Russell is now in danger, his instinct could not follow his brain; and although his brain instructs him to stay, he rushes to Russell’s apartment. And this is happened to Sherlock Holmes! Who would even guess? So, what else can change him like that if not the power of love? It becomes more interesting, eh?.....
Apart from the sparkle of romance, I was touched too by the struggles Russell and the child she rescued must have shared. It’s lovely to see how Russell could cure Jessica because of her own struggle, but more than that, I was glad and relieved that it is Holmes who helps Russell with his wisdom and experiences. When one blames oneself for a tragedy, people keep saying that it’s not his/her fault. It’s true, of course, but it doesn’t work to confront when one is wounded. Perhaps Holmes’ approach is the best way, to make one accepts that it’s one’s fault, but it’s all over now, it’s time to move on and do better things to pay for the fault already done. I just realize, that might be the best argument. And that makes me love Mary Russell’s series more, because it is very entertaining and exciting, yet sometimes touching.
So I guess, Russell and Holmes deserve to earn four stars from me for their first collaboration. Special thanks to Melisa who gave me this book for my birthday last year, and of course, a bunch of thanks for Laurie R. King for bringing Mary Russell into my life :) Now I can hardly wait to read the whole series!
*I read Qanita translation edition in Bahasa Indonesia for:*
9th book for 2013 TBR Pile Challenge
8th book for New Authors Reading Challenge 2013
5th book for 2013 TBRR Pile Mystery Reading Challenge