My Dear Watson by Margaret Park Bridges

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My Dear Watson by Margaret Park Bridges

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Category: Crime (Historical)
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: Sherlock Holmes is back, but this time he's a she.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 232 Date: December 2011
Publisher: MX Publishing
ISBN: 978-1780920764

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My Dear Watson is written by the hand of Holmes, Lucy Holmes, whom the world came to know as Sherlock. Yes, the well-loved detective is a female cross-dresser but with good reason. The young Lucy, having watched her mother die tragically, rushed off to live with her brother, Mycroft, at university. In order to stay, undetected (no pun intended), she had to dress as a man. Being slight and gamine, this wasn’t difficult and, after a while, she preferred the lifestyle. Watson hasn’t seen through the disguise, continuing to live with Holmes between marriages as they combat the odds and solve crimes with (or despite) the police.

In this particular mystery, our heroes encounter Constance Moriarty, related to Holmes’ arch nemesis, the Professor. Watson is dazzled by her beauty and so it begins: an adventure that will take Holmes and Watson across to France, lead to Holmes driving a new-fangled motor car (whilst Watson holds on for dear life) and will test their friendship to breaking point.

I started this book after an evening out, thinking I would just read a page or two to help me sleep... two hours later I’d read all of it. Margaret Park Bridges knows how to give a reader a good time. Each page beckons you hypnotically towards the next. It’s suspense filled, interesting, fun and, indeed funny to the point of farce on a couple of occasions. I’m not a Conan Doyle purist, but apart from one major reservation (I’ll get round to that in a minute), the feel and twists of the original Holmes seem to be present. Belief must be suspended to some extent as one has to assume that over the years Holmes and Watson were never in the situation where Holmes would need to undress in Watson’s presence. I’m happy to go along with that. My reservation? This isn’t as prejudicial as it sounds, but it stems from the fact that Margaret Park Bridges is American.

Perhaps I should explain. Ms Park Bridges seems to have spent days researching the history. She has gone into Victorian theatre and culture, the birth of the motor car, dress, French life of that era... but she’s failed at an easy hurdle: the difference between American and English. (I apologise – I don’t mean to rant, but I fear I might.) The author inserts a lovely in-joke about the Americans not being able to make tea as well as the British... but then throughout the book she insists that the British Watson takes tea with cream in. Yes, cream in the tea. I wanted to believe it was so. So much so, in fact, I downloaded The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes to my e-reader and did a word search. There are over 20 mentions of cups of tea and not one of them includes the use of cream. This wasn’t the only vernacular slip-up. Apparently we had railway cars in England rather than railway carriages and used the word gotten, as in Holmes' comment After I had finally gotten the room in order. Holmes is quintessentially English so it seems a shame that these details were overlooked. They don’t detract hugely from the adventure but they do jar in this setting.

Rant aside, this is an excellent book with a driving plot and twists right through it like a stick of rock. I don’t know what Conan Doyle would have thought of Holmes’ gender reassignment, but I’m sure he would have smiled at the thought... once he’d gotten used to it.

We would like to thank MX Publishing for giving a review copy of this book.

If you've enjoyed this, try a tale featuring the masculine Holmes in The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Seventh Bullet by Daniel D Victor.

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