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Mrs Hudson and the Spirits' Curse

By Martin Davies

   Everybody knows that Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson had a housekeeper called Mrs Hudson, but what did she get up to when her employers were detecting? Martin Davies' answer is that she was also detecting - but in this slightly tongue-in-cheek debut she also beats the professionals at their own game. When Nathaniel Moran arrives in an overly dramatic manner the whole household is agog to hear his fearsome tales of life in Sumatra, horrible deaths and curses that have followed him home to England. But where does the sinister Fogarty fit in to all this, and what part can orphan Flotsam play to sort out truth from lies and solve the mystery?

     Anything to do with Holmes is almost always great fun, and this is no exception. Told in the first person by Mrs Hudson's assistant Flotsam, this lifts the lid on one version on what was really going on before Watson decided to award the laurels to Holmes in his Strand stories. Foggy streets, master criminals, witch doctors' curses, orphans separated in infancy, and inexplicable murders all combine to make this a page turner with plenty of surprises - even Raffles puts in an appearance. To balance this out this is an overtly cozy tale that probably needs to be read on a stormy night in a warm room, so it is true to the Conan Doyle tradition too. I liked the way elements from the Holmes stories had been sewn together like a patchwork quilt, with the allusion to the "giant rat of Sumatra" as a focal point. There are parts of the book where the story treads water somewhat, and everybody will groan when Flottie falls for the villain's traps over and over again but perhaps this is all part of the fun. There is a great feeling of the first book in a possibly long series, and as I read it all sorts of future plots and themes presented themselves.

    Let's hope that I am right…

The Book

Berkley Prime Crime (Penguin Group)
November 2004
Historical Crime [1880s, London]
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The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2005
© 2005