“The House at Baker Street,” or, “the patriarchy is an even more insidious villain than Moriarty”

A couple weeks ago us Austria students spent two days setting up for and helping at a charity bazaar. The entire first day was devoted to setting up the tables – a couple metric tons of books take a while to lay out nicely, you see. This was a dangerous proposition for me, because in the face of that many books I am weak and I wound up buying several. Which I now have to get home somehow. Whoops.
The books I grabbed were “City of Dark Magic”,1 “The Clockwork Scarab”,2 two others that I haven’t yet read, and “The House at Baker Street”, which I finished just last night.3
I’ll admit, finishing the book last night wasn’t the best decision I’ve made recently – I’m fairly tired and irritable now, having stayed up a bit later than was advisable – but I’d gotten to that point in the book where you just can’t put it down.
The book was written as a take on the Sherlock Holmes story that is entirely compatible with the original novels – one or two of the things that the author treated as canonical aren’t precisely confirmed as such, but even those are based in popular interpretations of the canon.4 The core of the idea is “what do Mrs. Hudson and Mrs. Watson do all day?”
The answer, as it turns out, was generally ‘putter around doing appropriate things for a woman of the time to do’ … right up until the beginning of the book when Sherlock, rather characteristically, rejects a potential client. Mrs. Hudson offers the young woman tea, and winds up hearing her troubles – someone is blackmailing her, not with anything she did but just with the threat of spreading the sort of nasty rumors that can ruin someone’s life. Mrs. Hudson, and Mrs. Watson, being nicer people than Sherlock, decide to take up the case and help the young lady as best they can.
And then it starts to get fun, because it’s just a delightful romp through the world of the background characters of the Sherlock Holmes books. I really don’t want to say anything more, because it’s still a mystery novel, and it’s quite a good one – I didn’t see the ending coming, and I’m usually fairly good at calling how things are going to go.
In sum: Mrs. Hudson and Mary Watson are awesome, go read this book about them.

  1. Which I didn’t finish, so don’t hold out hope for the review of that one. My silence is my review. 
  2. I liked enough to share a link to it, but I was so irritated by the ‘buy the next book!’-ness of the ending that I decided against writing a full review when I finished reading it. 
  3. One of, I should add, three Sherlock Holmes themed books – “The Clockwork Scarab” being the second, and the third I can’t recall the title of but appears to be a Russian riff on the Holmes theme. 
  4. The one I’m referencing here is the idea that Mrs. Hudson’s first name is Martha – my understanding is that it’s never explicitly stated, but the general consensus is that that’s the case.