Russell and Holmes

I’ve been busy over the last few weeks, but with very little dancing to report.  I’m working at Barnes & Noble and at Grape + Bean, so most evenings I’m at work. Although I’m thrilled to be working, I do miss going out to the local dances and especially traveling to exchanges.  It looks like it will be awhile, too, until I’m able to resume attending exchanges regularly.

Dancing is not my only pastime, however, and taking a break from dancing has freed me to spend more time reading and sewing, both things I have been passionate about for much longer than blues or swing.

Laurie R. King has recently released a new book in her Russell and Holmes mystery series, titled Pirate King:

As I have not yet read God of the Hive, which comes before this, the release of Pirate King prodded me into action.  I am sorry to admit that although I often cite these books as one of my favorite series, there are several books (of the eleven that are currently out) that I have not reread since my initial reading, some going back to my high school years.  Since I knew I needed to reread The Language of Bees in order to read God of the Hive, I made an executive decision to start from the beginning and read them all. I have thus far progressed to the fifth book, The Moor.

The Moor takes place on Dartmoor, where Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles is also set, and refers to the original story quite often.  A little more than halfway through the book Sherlock Holmes instructs his partner Mary Russell to reread The Hound of the Baskervilles to see if she notices something relevant to their current case.  Since I’m on a quest to read all the books, I felt duty-bound to include a reading of Doyle’s masterpiece at the spot where Mary reads it as well.

I have to admit that my introduction to Doyle’s Holmes was less inspiring that I had expected:

“Really, Watson, you excel yourself,” said Holmes, pushing back his chair and lighting a cigarette. “I am bound to say that in all the accounts which you have been so good as to give of my own small achievements, you have habitually underrated your own abilities. It may be that you are not yourself luminous, but you are a conductor of light. Some people without possessing genius have a remarkable power of stimulating it. I confess, my dear fellow, that I am very much in your debt.”

He had never said as much before, and I must admit that his words gave me keen pleasure, for I had often been piqued by his indifference to my admiration and to the attempts which I had made to give publicity to his methods….

“Interesting, though elementary,” said he as he returned to his favorite corner of the settee. “There are certainly one or two indications upon the stick. It gives us the basis for several deductions.”

“Has anything escaped me?” I asked with some self importance. “I trust that there is nothing of consequence which I have overlooked?”

“I am afraid, my dear Watson, that most of your conclusions were erroneous. When I said that you stimulated me I meant, to be frank, that in noting your fallacies I was occasionally guided towards the truth.”  [He goes on to tear apart the conclusions which he had moments previously applauded.]

At this point I put down the book and returned to Mary in The Moor, justifying it to myself that I would get confused about the two books, so that it would be better to just read King’s account of The Hound of the Baskervilles.  But the second paragraph in sent me back to Doyle’s Holmes, and I read the whole thing through:

In any event, it was no great hardship to settle into my chair with the book and renew my acquaintance with Dr. Mortimer, the antiquarian enthusiast who brings Holmes the curse of the Baskervilles, and with the young Canadian Sir Henry Baskerville, come to the moor to claim his title and heritage. I met again the ex-headmaster Stapleton and the woman introduced as his sister, and the mysterious Barrymores, servants to old Sir Charles. The moor across which I had so recently wandered came alive in all its dour magnificence, and I was very glad this book had not been among my reading the previous weekend, leaving me to ride out on the moor with the image of the hound freshly imprinted on my mind….

I am very glad to have read the original now, and I really enjoyed it after I got over Holmes being a bit of an ass. I am finally understanding the references King makes in this book, as well as a number of comments dropped throughout the books about the relationship between Holmes and Watson.  It has also given me a renewed appreciation for the way King developed the relationship between Russell and Holmes, and the differences between their partnership and the earlier one with Watson.

The Russell and Holmes stories are all mysteries, but I confess I haven’t been much of a mystery fan since my grade school days of devouring Nancy Drew books. Instead, I read them more for the characters and dialogue than the clues and solving of the puzzle.  Therefore, allow me to recommend these books to you if you enjoy mysteries, fabulous characters, good dialogue, or the reworking of classic characters.  If you have read them in years past, allow me to recommend revisiting them as I am doing; thus far they improve with age.

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5 thoughts on “Russell and Holmes

  1. You’ve been telling me about this series since we started dating, and I’ve enjoyed experiencing it secondhand as you have re-read the series. Glad to have read your extended thoughts about it, as well.

  2. I read Justice Hall and The Game over the summer and really enjoyed them. I, too, need to read The Language of Bees, God of the Hive and The Pirate King (and maybe one more that I’m missing in between?). Glad you’re revisiting them!

  3. Russell and Holmes!! I put Pirate King on hold at the library last month but it arrived earlier than I expected and I’m currently bogged down in Whitman poetry!! Uugh! But I’m hoping this post kick my ass into reading it this weekend! Thank you! (And I just put walnuts on my grocery list, those nutty scones you made sound delicious!)

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