Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Sword Princess (Unabridged)
Author: Suzette Hollingsworth Date: 2015 Narrator: Joel Froomkin Provider: Suzette Hollingsworth Running Time: 7 h 51 min Audible Enhanced Audio Victorian romantic Mystery in the humorous vein of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer. The Great Detective has more in store for his landlady’s niece than washing jars and labeling specimens: pistol shooting, fencing, boxing, and Jiu-Jitsu. This she can master, but Mirabella Hudson must face the greatest horror of all: Miss de Beauvais’ Finishing School for Distinguished Young Ladies. Sherlock Holmes gets more than he bargained for when he hires his landlady’s young ward to keep his laboratory in order. Mrs. Hudson’s niece might be clever, but Mirabella Hudson is insubordinate, talks too much, is an accident waiting to happen–and, worst of all, is distractingly pretty. Unfortunately, ‘pretty’ is just what Sherlock Holmes needs. Sherlock might be a master of disguise, but pretty he is not. The Great Detective requires a female operative to go under cover at London’s premier finishing school where Princess Elena Petrovic-Njegos of Montenegro is a client–and the target of an assassination plot. If the inexperienced Miss Hudson and her employer do not succeed in saving the princess, there is trouble brewing across the globe that could potentially lead to war on a massive scale. Montenegro is a small Serbian country, but she has among her allies the Mother Russia. One unsuccessful case could ruin this young detective’s career before it starts. Above all, Sherlock must have occupation. Work is the blood in his veins. Work is life. The game is afoot! And there can be no greater puzzle than what he receives in the form of one Mirabella Hudson–who might stump even Sherlock Holmes.
I approached this book with more than a little trepidation, because, for most of my life, I have been a unabashed Holmsian. I’ve read the Canon, and I’ve read many modern interpretations and redesigns of Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson. A few, such as the Mary Russell series by Laurie R. King are excellent, true to the original conception of Holmes, and yet original in their handling of not just his character, but in the creation of, and management of, a most unlikely situation. In fact, for me, the Mary Russell series is the “gold standard” of modern interpretations of Sherlock Holmes. Other books, such as “7% Solution” were extremely disappointing. Sherlock Holmes is, however, and probably always will be, one of those iconic figures all authors who write mysteries yearn to revisit, either from admiration or because they want to “improve” modernize or reinterpret him. Some attempts are serious, some are pastiche, but I will probably read all of them I can find, because, after all, it *is* Mr. Holmes.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, despite that it contained all the elements I dislike in revisitations of the Holmes Universe. Mr. Holmes traits are emphasized in ways that make him into a caricature of himself,. True, he was not overly concerned with his appearance (except when essential) but he wasn’t sloppy about anything, ever. Also, Mr. Holmes had fair hair and piercing gray eyes, not brown hair and eyes. While his relationship with women has always been a challenge to modern interpreters, that relationship was a reflection of the attitudes of his own time (extremized, certainly), and so modern writers seem determined to either explain it away by making Holmes either neurotic and psychologically flawed, or simply change it by giving him an attraction. That seldom works, and I didn’t expect it to in this book, but …it did. Perhaps it worked because the young lady in question was atypical herself, though beautiful, and the author prepares the ground well. These 2 individuals are attracted to one another on one hand, and repelled on the other, and end up fighting like 2 cats confined in one very small space. Sparks fly, but each brings out the best in the other, and each virtually forces the other to consider different perspectives that result in success.
Despite the overblown and almost cartoonish elements of this book, it is a fun romp, and if taken as such, a delightful romp, indeed. Is it true to what we have come to know about Sherlock Holmes? Despite some surface changes, exaggerations and departures (such as his physical appearance) from the original, yes, essentially, it is. This author catches the heart of Holmes’ personality and methodology, and he understands something usually overlooked in portrayals of the Detective. Despite Mr. Holmes’ anathemas against women, he showed, throughout his career, flashes of understanding and compassion. This is more visible in Sir Conan Doyle’s later stories, for example “The Veiled Woman”, but even in one of his earlier stories, called, I think, “The Face at the Window” Holmes not only showed compassion for a wife with a secret, but became her advocate. This was also one of the few riddles he did not solve successfully, and he understood that this particular failure was a reminder to himself that being human, he was also imperfect, and subject to his own prejudices and errors of judgment.
The action in this book is well done, if a bit overblown, and often comes across like “super hero” comic book fiction, not helped by the comic book elements in the text and emphasized by the narration, and yet, this book can’t quite be dismissed as a pastiche, because beneath the silliness and even sometimes in spite of it, the author has a keen eye for detail, for the portrayal of social and cultural environments, and an understanding of human nature.
Granted, I found a thoroughly English child of the 1880s referring to the giver of Christmas gifts as “Santa” jarring, since “Father Christmas” is a well known designation for British culture, but in the important things, such as workhouse conditions, and the state of charity at the time, what the author provided rang true.
I vacillated between wanting to give this book anywhere from 2 to 5 stars, depending on what I was reading at the moment, but, after sitting back and considering it as a whole, I have to decide that, while not to be taken seriously, taken on its own merits, it is a lot of fun, so I can, without many reservations, give it 4 stars.
The narrator’s performance complimented the book nicely, and he seemed to have grand fun narrating it, so for that alone, my compliments, and 4 stars.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for this unbiased review via AudioBookBlast dot com.