Thursday, October 10, 2013

Brothers Holmes, brothers Wilde.

Having delightedly finished Lindsay Faye's Seven for a Secret this morning, the brothers Wilde have been on my mind today.

Make no mistake -- Timothy and Valentine Wilde are no Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes. Though the younger one is a talented investigator and the older a man whose involvement in government is not to be underestimated, the Wildes are a very complicated pair. And so, so American.

Not to say that Sherlock and Mycroft aren't a complex pair, but we were never given enough Sherlock-Mycroft relationship screen-time in the Sherlockian Canon to explore their brotherly origins or ongoing encounters. Finishing the second book of the Wilde brothers of New York City, one starts to feel that absence a little more sharply. Lyndsay Faye weaves a great tale, and even though it has certain echoes of Conan Doyle (Silkie Marsh may not be a complete Irene Adler/Moriarty cross, but she carries the best of both in a wonderful new arch-nemesis.) Like Rex Stout before her, Lyndsay takes her love of Sherlock Holmes to another level. Stout's Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin were never meant to be Holmes and Watson, but you always knew they were of the same spiritual bloodline.

I don't know if the Wiggins of the Baker Street Irregulars of New York knew he was signing up a new Rex Stout when he brought Lyndsay into the fold, but he may have even done one better: she knows how to end a novel, a minor quibble I always held with Stout's mysteries, where almost any of the suspects could have easily done the crime. But those were different times, when murder mysteries were just plain murder mysteries, and not involving historical adventures that went into social issues of the day. Lyndsay is definitely working with a wider palette of colors in painting her New York of the 1800s.

One could go on with Wilde-Holmes parallels all day long: Timothy Wilde definitely has his Mrs. Hudson, and if one stretches the mind far enough, his Billy, his Watson, and . . . well, trying to match Yarders with copper stars is a complete mess. But that is how it should be. Gods of Gotham and Seven for a Secret are original and well-created works all their own.

But for the Sherlockian, there's that little bit of familiarity, as well as a wish that we'd gotten to see Sherlock and Mycroft as clearly as we see Timothy and Valentine, that makes a good thing even better.

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