Wed
Jun 7 2017 1:00pm

Review: The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes by Leonard Goldberg

The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes by Leonard Goldberg is a new thrilling tale of the great detective’s daughter and her companion Dr. John Watson, Jr. as they investigate a murder at the highest levels of British society.

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Years have passed since the world's greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes, passed away peacefully in his sleep. His lifelong friend and crime-solving partner, Dr. Watson, is much grayer and a little stooped, but he still calls 221b Baker Street home—and he's still doing his best to continue Sherlock's work.

“There is a young woman downstairs who wishes to see you, Dr. Watson. Shall I show her up?”

“By all means.”

As the door closed, I asked my father, “It seems strange that they continue to bring their problems here, does it not?”

My father nodded. “As if Sherlock Holmes was still alive.”

“Are you able to help them?”

My father shrugged. “To the smallest extent. I give them guidance and hope for the best.”

“That is most kind of you.”

He shrugged once more and said, “I am merely an old man trying to remain relevant.”

This latest case—set in 1910—is narrated by the good doctor's son, Dr. John Watson, Jr. Like his father, he entered the medical profession and practices at St. Bartholomew's Hospital. Whereas the original Watson was a seasoned military man, this John Watson is a skilled boxer who has grown tired of the humdrum pace at the teaching hospital. 

Luckily for both Watsons—who wish to remain relevant and engaged—a mysterious case revolving around a supposed suicide is about to land in their laps. As fate would have it, the dead man's fall was witnessed by a most unusual woman...

A trained nurse and mother to a 10-old prodigy, Joanna Blalock is a young widow with a razor sharp mind and a distinctive deductive process. She quickly proves to be more than just a witness, as the elder Watson reveals to his son: she is, in fact, the daughter of Sherlock Holmes and the infamous Irene Adler, given to a good family after her mother's death. 

Gifted with an incredible intellect from both of her biological parents, Joanna also has a quality her father lacked but her mother had in spades: charm and sociability. She's undeniably a force to be reckoned with.

“Her mind is much like that of Sherlock Holmes,” my father said, nodding. “I would venture to say she would have no difficulty matching wits with him.”

“That is high praise indeed.”

“And when dealing with others, she will have an obvious advantage over Sherlock.”

“How so?”

“People will underestimate her because she is a woman.”

“They will do so at their peril.”

“A most remarkable woman,” my father concluded.

As the Watsons and Joanna investigate the staged suicide of Charles Harrelston, they cross paths with another familiar name: Moran. It seems that the son of Holmes's erstwhile foe, Sebastian Moran, is also a doctor. 

Like John, Christopher Moran has followed in his father's footsteps into a life of secret crime and cunning murder. Unlike John, Christopher has not been upholding the Hippocratic Oath. In a matter of days, another man connected to both Harrelston and Moran has died in somewhat murky circumstances—and a third man's life is now in imminent danger.

The unfolding story is full of cryptography, clever observations, a handful of Irregulars, and a moment or two of danger. Constant references and allusions to previous Holmes cases pepper the pages. 

Through it all, Joanna leads the way with her deft conclusions and matter-of-fact manner. Both Watsons have moments to shine and are consistently helpful, much like the original Watson of the Arthur Conan Doyle stories (and less like the frequently bumbling, comedic Watson so often seen in film and TV). 

The plot itself is a decent one, with interesting clues and colorful details. But so much of The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes is devoted to paying homage to the original canon that it doesn't feel like its own story. 

Rather than breathe new life into the Sherlock pastiche with interesting variations on the established tropes, Goldberg consistently returns to the past. A majority of the cast are the children of the original characters who, rather than being individuals with their own merits, are merely repetitions of their parents. Lestrade's son is also a bumbling inspector eager to claim the credit; Miss Hudson continues housekeeping at the address her mother devoted her life to. 

Joanna has the potential to be an extremely interesting character, given she's equal parts Sherlock and Irene Adler, and she has an interesting backstory what with her adoption, marriage, and motherhood. Yet she remains largely distant and unexplored since she never goes into detail about her private life. Plus, with John Watson, Jr. as our narrator, we never truly see through her eyes.

“Holmes would tell you that some trees grow to a certain height and then suddenly divulge some unsightly eccentricity, and that often occurs in humans. Holmes believed in the theory that the individual represents the whole procession of his ancestors, and that such a turn to good or evil is from some strong influence that comes from the line of his pedigree. The person thus becomes the epitome of the history of his own family.”

Goldberg clearly loves the concept of inheritance, but it feels rather limiting and frustrating here. Claiming that someone has no choice but to follow the same patterns as their forebears makes for boring predictability with characters—a much more interesting, exciting story would be how someone could completely defy genetics and expectations.

This isn't to say The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes is a bad adventure. Merely that it doesn't stand out much from the thick crowd of Holmes retellings/adaptations/updates. With so many options out there for fans of the great detective, one wishes for a bit more spice and excitement. 

With great care we looked both ways before crossing Baker Street. I watched Joanna take my father's arm and could not help but think, there walk Holmes and Watson again on the very same street where they lived. And once more I realized that the past was reappearing in the present.  

Read an excerpt from The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes!

 

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Angie Barry wrote her thesis on the socio-political commentary in zombie films. Meeting George Romero is high on her bucket list, and she has spent hours putting together her zombie apocalypse survival plan. She also writes horror and fantasy in her spare time, and watches far too much Doctor Who. Come find the angie bee at Tumblr.

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