Another reviewer points out that the POV character of this novel, Rose is something of a Mary Sue (an idealised version of the author) and I think she's probably right. But I also think that that's the point. This novel is the tale of a young lady sent back in time to interact with Sherlock Holmes before he became the figure we know in the Conan Doyle stories. It's a bit like the recent Bond film, Casino Royale, in that respect. You see Holmes' neophyte attempts at disguise, his gift for deductive reasoning, and learn a possible origin for Watson's wound. You also see him as a human being of human desires, with Rose acting in a more saucy version of the Irene Adler role.
I think part of the point is to recast the Holmes stories into the reality of Victorian London, rather than the more idealized (although depicting a world where blackmail and murder is rife is hardly idealized, is it?) version of the original stories. It's also about the way that people who write Holmes today, end up changing the character to better fit the times. So yes, I think that saying it's not a Holmes story per se is valid, but then it's not meant to be. I think the tale is more about the interaction of people today with the Holmes mythos. And, although I don't claim to be an expert, I think it will fit in the mythos.
The writing does a good job of showing complex relationships, of delineating Holmes' brilliance and arrogance, but also his more human and honourable side; it's witty and exciting by turns and builds to a satisfying climax in which the science fiction and Faction Paradox elements to the story come to the fore.
I'd heartily recommend this to those people who enjoy literary games that don't necessarily pastiche the work that came before and those who like a fun read.
on 17 January 2007
The ultimate academic historians' field-trip and travel opportunity of a lifetime: the past. A chance not just to read about and research period events and individuals, but to actually live among them and experience their everyday lives with your own eyes. Though Rose Donnelly, the charming 21st century academic, needs be careful lest her unobtrusive observation of Sherlock Holmes risks turning into rather more active involvement... And behind the scenes dark plans are being hatched...
Erasing Sherlock is the fifth and final Faction Paradox novel from Mad Norwegian Press. And a very good one it is indeed; Kelly Hale`s written up a fabulous page-turner of a book here, full of mystery, cunning, adventure, and murder most foul.
The dramatis personae are well characterised and interesting, the period setting is intricately described and the events well plotted, while the book has a sense of increasing desperation and tension which builds up to the explosive climax.
It is part of a series of books, which share a common background universe and inspiration, but they're all deliberately individually set - there are no ongoing characters or locations from book to book - and don't need to be at all familiar with the back-story to appreciate or enjoy the story.
PS. Since Amazon don't seem to display it I've copied out the back cover blurb below (might be a little harder to follow without the inter-spaced newspaper lines being printed in bold but can't be helped).
Seeking: Maid of All Work.
Master of Arts Required.
She thought she was there to observe and document the methods of the twenty-five year old Sherlock Holmes before he gained notoriety -
`Rooftop Robber Strikes Again!'
A barely noticed automation; quiet efficient and unobtrusive -
`The partially clad body of a young girl was found Sunday morning at the London Dock.'
A remarkable opportunity for research in the field -
`Gilbert & Sullivan's comic opera, Perola, premieres at the Savoy Theatre.'
Bestowed upon her by a benefactor who has sold his soul -
`American Oil Tycoon, Henry Barstow, has begun annulment proceedings on behalf of his daughter Lady Henrietta Holbrook. Lord Merrill Holbrook's whereabouts still unknown.'
For a technology that only works if the devil he sold it to is sufficiently entertained.
`Dr Grimsley Roylott of Stoke Moran arrested in connection with suspicious deaths of his stepdaughters, Julia and Helen Stoner.'
The life of Sherlock Holmes is being written by another hand -
`Woman held captive for forty days, rescued. White slave gangs suspected.'
And maid must become master if she wants to survive -
`Krakatoa explodes with a force of 1,300 megatons. Thousands perish.'
Because the devil loves a spectacle. The more blood the better.
on 6 March 2007
I bought this on a recommendation from a friend, who knows I'm interested in Holmes. Maybe it works as part of the Faction Paradox series (the rest of which I haven't read) but as a Holmes pastiche I don't think it does. Rose comes across as a Mary Sue, something made worse by the book being entirely from her point of view. I think I even know what book the bulk, if not all, of Ms Hale's period research came from, as it's one I've recently read - Victorian London by Liza Picard.
The plot itself was quite gripping as sci-fi, but I found it somewhat grating as a Holmes story. I would expect the last book in a series to finish by explaining what had actually been going on but it didn't, which made it feel rather like a piece that the author got bored of before it was finished. Perhaps this is something that is obvious to those who have read the other books.
I would suggest that those interested in Holmes rather than Faction Paradox skip this one, as there's plenty of good Holmes fiction available online for free, as well as any number of other published works they would probably find more satisfying.
'Erasing Sherlock' is the fifth novel in the Doctor Who spin-off Faction Paradox series, though the continuity links are so tenuous (indeed, this novel was first published as a stand-alone novel in its own right) that no previous knowledge is necessary. All you need to know is the basic premise: a modern-day time academic travels back in time to observe the young Sherlock Holmes, going undercover to work as a maid at his Baker Street residence. The novel is probably not one that will be enjoyed by Holmes purists: the novel delights in pushing the character into directions alien to Doyle's original work (romance and sexuality, both herero and homosexual), and the central murder mystery plot is simply too linear and simplsitic to really engage the imagination. Where 'Erasing Sherlock' is succesful is in highlighting the character of Rose and her experiences of living in the Victorian era. The first half of the novel is particularly engaging, but it has to be said that the further it progresses the more it begins to resemble romantic fan fiction, with the breathelessly passionate Holmes bearing little relation to Doyle's cold and analytical creation. Nevertheless, this in an interesting and not wholly unsuccesful experiment in perverting Sherlock Holmes into something new. (3.5 out of 5)