Top critical review
One person found this helpful
I'm torn between liking this book as a individual piece & resetting it's disrespect to the canon.
on 20 January 2016
So first the good bits: I enjoyed the book, and found it hard to put down. I loved envisioning Holmes in his retirement, seeing his home, & meeting Mrs Hudson again. I liked the female lead & enjoyed the re-introduction of old characters from the canon.
However, the mysteries weren't up to Conan Doyle's standard & the final denouement was fairly obvious. The clue of the Roman numerals - and particularly where these were placed - is absurd. I found the fatherly tenderness Holmes showed towards Mary touching at first, but then it became mawkish - even a little creepy. As others have noted, the Palestine storyline seems bizarre & misplaced: admittedly, Conan Doyle also frequently took huge tangents in his stories, but his tangents were generally prequels to the story itself & fascinating in their own right. Ms King's tangent was merely a rather weak plot device.
I found the dialogue infuriating at times, especially when between more than two people: Ms King rarely gave any indication as to whom was speaking. In addition, she gave the two key characters dialogue which was indistinct from each other. This caused me to have to read & reread dialogue several times in order to comprehend the text. At times it was impossible to be certain who had said what.
The biggest crime in this book is not kidnap or murder but Ms King's disrespect for Dr Watson. Granted, Mary is highly intelligent & perhaps shares similar narcissistic traits to Holmes in seeing anyone slower than her as dim. However, we have progressed a long way from the bumbling fool Nigel Bruce lovingly played; adorable though this character was, he was not portrayed as Conan Doyle intended. For decades now, portrayals of Watson have been far more accurate. As Edward Hardwicke (Watson in the Granada to series alongside Jeremy Brett's Holmes) himself stated, Watson was a medical doctor. Even then, that took years of study & a high level of intelligence & commitment. King ignores that fact & choose the lazy version of Watson, portraying him as a bumbling fool. Given Ms King follows Conan Doyle's premise that Watson was Holmes' highly successful & talented biographer, a man who was able to understand & explain often extremely complex cases to the general public, this creates a jarring conflict in the book which is distracting & irritating.