Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Unusual Case of the Book That Was Reviewed.

This isn't normally a book review blog, but when a Sherlock Holmes related book manages to get past the finicky barriers of Sherlock Peoria reading tastes, it is worth noting.

The latest such book, The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter by Theodora Goss, is most definitely worth noting. It's an origin story of sorts, a happy lead-in for what I strongly hope will become a series. Sherlock Holmes appears throughout, and should appear in future books, but he and Watson are supporting characters in the lives of one Mary Jekyll and her friends.

If the name "Mary Jekyll" makes you think she's related to another fictional personage of that last name, you would be correct. And if you were to have heard that The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter follows paths already trod by Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or one of Kim Newman's Anno Dracula books, you might be correct as well. But Alchemist's Daughter is charming where the first of those two was dour and gruesome, and creating new characters where the second tended to stick more with the old.

Sherlock Holmes is not overdone and not underdone . . . if this book series adds one more feminine person of interest to his life, I might actually wind up approving. Unlike the Mary Russell novels, where his ties to Russell inevitably warp the Sherlock we know a bit to couple him up, Mary Jekyll has her own life to lead and plainly won't be working as a next-generation Watson. And the little "family" she builds would seem to give her much more important relationships to develop as her life goes on . . . .

. . . . or already has gone on. One of the book's little habits that came to be quite a comfortable occurrence was brief interludes where the characters would comment upon the novel as it was being written. Future adventures are referred to, personalities come out (even before you meet some of them for the first time in the narrative), and the sense of a family group comes in from the start. I wasn't sure if that technique would work at first, but it does, and adds a layer to the book that while perhaps not critical to the plot, sets a nice tone as things develop.

The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter is a happy book, even if some of the characters were quite literally born of suffering and horror. You'll find kin to old favorites in the world of monsters, as Mary Jekyll's name suggests, and perhaps a character you missed in your readings, as I did.

It's coming out in paperback on August first, so this is a good time to get on the fun a bit more economically if you missed this one's initial release.

1 comment:

  1. Book reviews work two ways - now I know to skip this one - thanks!