Detective novel ‘Mrs. Hudson and the Wild West’ brings Sherlock Holmes to life
Sherlock Holmes survived his dip in the Reichenbach Falls. It even survived the death of its creator, Arthur Conan Doyle.
Dozens of writers, from Nicholas Meyer (“The Seven Percent Solution”) to Laurie R. King (“The Beekeeper’s Apprentice”) to Anthony Horowitz (“The House of Silk”) continued the chronicles of the first and more leading private consulting firm in the world. detective.
Now Barry S. Brown enters the fray with “Mrs. Hudson and the Wild West,” the seventh in his “Mrs. Hudson of Baker Street” series.
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It was Brown who made a startling discovery: Mrs. Hudson – apparently the housekeeper at Holmes’ apartment at 221-B Baker St. – was actually the mastermind of the operation.
Mrs. Hudson, who has no lines of dialogue in the Conan Doyle stories, or even a first name, learned criminology, it seems, from her dear late husband Tobias, a London bobby. Together they practiced solving cases from police reports from the Evening Standard and other London newspapers.
Heavy, patriarchal Victorian society would never have accepted a female detective. So she hired Holmes and Watson as fronts.
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They are not fools. Holmes, more of a ham actor, is helpful with impersonations and disguises, and they go out and do the legwork, much like Archie Godwin did in Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe stories. But it’s Mrs. Hudson, Cockney accent and all, who handles the trickiest interviews, and she’s the one who solves the mystery.
In “Mrs. Hudson and the Wild West”, the firm is approached by none other than Buffalo Bill Cody. Just before the official opening of his Wild West Show in London, Cody’s prized palomino, Duke, is kidnapped – or rather, buried.
It takes Mrs. Hudson & Co. less than a chapter to get Duke back. (Brown writes some pretty long chapters.) But this case thrusts them into a complex murder investigation involving conflicted farmers, two star-crossed pairs of lovers, and a pair of lovable delinquents who may have wandered from “Huckleberry Finn.”
For those who love steampunk, Gilbert and Sullivan and the quaint English villages where they drop like flies, “Mrs. Hudson and the Wild West” should make ideal summer reading.
Brown’s novels steadily improved as the series progressed. He has crafted a version of Doyle’s quasi-Victorian storytelling that doesn’t tax modern readers. Light, fast and with an underlying humor, they huzzah dream and call out “God Save the Queen!”
‘MADAM. HUDSON AND THE WILD WEST’
By Barry S. Brown
MZ Publishing, paperback $14.95