I came across this book quite by chance while wandering around a new to me bookshop one day. I was initially drawn in by the cover – I can't resist a good book cover and the artwork on this one is particularly appealing to me. When I turned to the back to read the blurb I was sufficiently intrigued to go and buy the book – an adventure with Sherlock Holmes and a young lady being the subject of the story.
"1915. The great detective Sherlock Holmes is retired and quietly engaged in the study of honey bees when a young woman literally stumbles into him on the Sussex Downs. Fifteen years old, gawky, egotistical, and recently orphaned, the young Mary Russell displays an intellect to impress even Sherlock Holmes – and match him wit for wit. Under his reluctant tutelage, this very modern twentieth-century woman proves a deft protegee and a fitting partner for the Victorian detective. In their first case together, they must track down a kidnapped American senator's daughter and confront a truly cunning adversary – a bomber who has set trip-wires for the sleuths and who will stop at nothing to end their partnership."
The book starts out with an 'explanation' by the author of how she came to write the book and immediately there is a mystery at hand before the main story has even begun. Following this, Mary Russell is introduced and she immediately stumbles across Sherlock Holmes lying on grass observing the comings and going of bees. They develop relationship/friendship and over the years spend a large amount of time together before Mary goes up to Oxford. Their adventures proper begin with the affair of the kidnapped senator's daughter, although they do solve a couple of small local mysteries before this, and lead on to dealing with a nasty, criminal mastermind.
Many of the regular characters are also in the story – Mrs. Hudson, Dr. Watson, Mycroft Holmes and even an Inspector Lestrade although this is the son of the original. The story travels from Eastbourne to London, Oxford and the Holy Land and back again to London, Oxford and Eastbourne. There was a strong whiff of who the evil genius might be but no way of landing on the right person exactly until Mary herself worked it out. Although the 'action' was a little slow to get going initially with plenty of scene setting and character building on the parts of Mary and Holmes, once it did I didn't want to put the book down. I thought Mary a wonderful character – almost a female version of Holmes. It is a brave thing to take on such a well loved, strong character as Holmes and tinker around with his personality/character but I think the job was well done here and will certainly be seeking out more of the series to read.
This is my first review for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge