"Erasing Sherlock" by Kelly Hale
"Seeking maid-of-all-work. Master of Arts required. Opportunities for research in the field. Must be able to relocate in time."
This is the advert to which doctoral candidate Gillian Rose Petra answers. To her delight she actually wins the chance to travel back in time to observe the young Sherlock Holmes at the beginning of his career in his natural habitat, Bakerstreet 221B, London.
Working as Rose Donnelly, a housemaid for Mrs Hudson, she starts to document his methods for her doctoral thesis.
Kelly Hale is an American author and "Erasing Sherlock Holmes" was her first novel which was published as an eBook in 2000 after it won a $10,000 award in the Great North American Fiction Contest.
Her second novel, written with a co-author, was the BBC Doctor Who novel "Grimm Reality". Since then she seems to have written only short stories.
Her Faction Paradox novel "Erasing Sherlock" is a re-working of the earlier "Erasing Sherlock Holmes" and was first published in December 2006.
The Faction Paradox is a fictional time travelling crime syndicate, headed by one Jimmy Moriarty, which originally featured as recurring antagonists in the BBC Doctor Who Adventure novels.
The novel starts out very promising when Gillian aka Rose, hiding behind her feather duster, is able to overhear a few partly hilarious Holmes/Watson conversations.
The way Holmes is described I could not avoid imagining our modern day Holmes, Benedict Cumberbatch, in the role – although the novel might have been written with Jeremy Brett in mind as "Sherlock" was not even a twinkle in the eyes of Moffat/Gatiss at the time.
The "Sherlock" creators have often stated that apart from the original ACD canon all movies, shows, pastiches etc. have been fodder for their inspiration and, as Kelly Hale was writing for Doctor Who as well, I feel pretty sure that they know her work. Thus it is entirely possible that several parallels between the book and the "Sherlock" series are there for a reason and don't exist entirely in my imagination.
For instance there is a circus acrobat cat burglar haunting London like in TBB, although she's not a member of a Chinese triade and doesn't murder anyone. Then there's the way Jimmy Moriarty intends to destroy, respectively "erase", Sherlock by utterly destroying his reputation. Sound familiar?
Sadly it doesn't even take one third of the novel before Gillian and Holmes fall in love and into bed. I would have much preferred if she would have stayed true to her goal and really researched him, as I could have read hundreds of pages of Gillian just telling us about the daily life at 221B.
From then on the story gets rather convoluted as several plots fight for attention: Gillian is arrested for supposedly being the cat burglar. Holmes gets entangled in a scandalous divorce involving a homosexual relationship. Gillian and Watson are kidnapped and held captive. All the while a child molester/murderer is stalking his prey in the dark and foggy London alleys. Kudos to the author for somehow unraveling this truly Gordian knot and bringing it all to a logical conclusion!
As entertaining as this story was in parts, the ending then gets rather Whovian in dimensions and strays too far from its origins for my taste. But overall it is a light and quite exciting read and will please those who love to hunt for easter eggs and hidden cross connections and such. And those who are not adverse to a little romance even better than me.
Overall three stars out of five.