On the Moor with Holmes

I have just finished the fourth in the series about Mary Russel, the young wife of Sherlock Holmes. This is "The Moor", by Laurie R King. If you know your Sherlockiana - well, even if you have a rudimentary knowledge about Conan Doyle´s classics - you´ll guess that this is a return to Dartmoor and the scene of the case of the hound of Baskerville.

Our heroine, Russel, is in Oxford, working on a book of her own, when the adventure begins. She is summoned to Dartmoor by a couple of insistant telegrams from Holmes, and she reluctantly comes. And then, not much happens the first half of the book. Holmes is distant and vague, Russel is mostly stumbling around in rain and mud, being cold and hungry and feeling her tasks are anything but relevant. It´s not even particularly certain that they are on a real case. They are staying with an old man with the peculiar name of Sabine Baring-Gould, an actual real-life person, who´s relationship to Holmes is a bit of a mystery as well. Baring-Gould has a feeling not all is well on the moor and that is, more or less, what they are investigating. Russel is frustrated, as am I, and I fully sympathise with her when on page 133 she falls on her face one time too many (thrown off the back of an ornery horse):

"So I lay flat on my back and cried like a child [...] in frustration at the ridiculous mockery of detective work I was forced to carry out and at my inability to anticipate the antics of my four-legged companion, in rage at the horse and at the sudden shock of pain; at everything and nothing, I cried."

However, after that the story picks up speed and in the end we have a couple of bona fide villains, a rainy and muddy chase on the moor and a happy end. And mid-novel I had motive both to read the original Baskerville-novel by Conan Doyle and see the tv-film with Jeremy Brett as Sherlock. Just wished I had had the old film with Basil Rathbone. I remember scenes from it quite vividly, despite not having seen it for at least twenty years or so. (Interestingly, before Rathbone had a go at the role, there had been four German versions made!)

Having just read Conan Doyle himself have increased my admiration for King, who really has managed to be true to the Sherlock character. I think Sherlock Holmes is one of those literary characters that somehow have become mythological in our culture and, as recent years have proven, he can be revived into any time and any place and be as interesting and engaging as ever.

I would like to add that King´s writing should be studied by all those writers who have been honored with the Bad Sex in Fiction Award. She does sex really well:

"My hair was nearly dry by the time Holmes came upstairs. He had paused to change more than his muddy boots, and looked very appealing, tall and slim in his jet suit and snowy shirtfront. One thing led to another, as is the wont in a marriage, and we did not get around to speaking about Ketteridge until after the housemaid had fetched up the morning tea."

That´s as steamy as I can take it, actually...

And now I am quite curious about Dartmoor. We are going to pass not far from it this summer, but our plans are focused to sights along the coast. I think a visit to the moor will have to wait to another year. It´s always nice to have a reason to return to a place, isn´t it?

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