The year is 1915; precocious tomboy Mary Russell has just turned fifteen when she meets a strange man in the English countryside near her small hometown. That man is an aging Sherlock Holmes and he sees in Mary a brain that could be developed to be as brilliant, well, let’s say ALMOST as brilliant as his own. The book then follows this pair, with appearances from Mycroft, Watson, Mrs. Hudson, etc., over the next few eventful years of their lives as Holmes slowly trains Russell into a sharper intelligence and their relationship grows into a real friendship. I liked the way the book didn’t follow traditional mystery novel format. The book is almost half over before the “main” plot, the most serious case Russell and Holmes face, begins; the first half is all character stuff and smaller cases that serve as teaching exercises. I liked Russell a lot as a character and I thought King did a mostly perfect job capturing Doyle’s characters. Holmes is occasionally a bit too emotional for my tastes, but, by and large, King did a great job expanding the emotional life of the detective and making him more human without going too far or detracting from his machine-like coldness. The take on Watson is different than I would have expected, but it’s ultimately an affectionate, if perhaps a bit too simplistic, one. My favorite scene in the book is a scene featuring Russell, Holmes and Watson; the way the characters all bounce off each other was wonderful and sharply written. On the whole, I really loved this book. It was, as all mystery novels that are successful are, the beginning of a series and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series. Anyway, really great read. Highly recommended. 4 stars.
tl;dr – youthful Mary Russell is an excellent foil for an aging Sherlock Holmes in this wonderful, sharply written, character based mystery novel. 4 stars.