Claire O’dell‘s The Hound of Justice

The Hound of Justice by Claire O’dell has little to do with Sherlock Holmes, and nothing to do with The Hound of the Baskervilles. Truth be told, it has more in common with the BBC series  Sherlock than the literary source. The leads are called friends. But Watson shows no real positive emotion for Holmes, and the familiar investigator shows little sign of,caring for their friends in turn.

Sara Holmes is addicted to booze and, of all things, clove cigarettes. With these being her obvious vices the attempt to lean on Holmes as an addict is an odd choice, with one normally a substitute for a stronger narcotic and the other so common and socially acceptable that Alcoholism is often not taken seriously. She is also a suspended government agent. This might make for clever commentary on the change in law enforcement, however the surveillance state and many agencies are universally condemned, leaving that concept out in the cold. Sara is from an immensely influential family, and has a sister named Micha who is an expert at certain espionage matters, including disguise. Frankly, Micha reminds this reader more easily of Sherlock than Sara, though both share traits as much with other spies and investigators.

Janet Watson is surly and angry, with PTSD related flashes and a certain degree of pain from no longer finding, herself a reliable surgeon. There are many relatable emotions here  and her attempt to learn her prosthesis represents a great struggle, down to her trying to style her own hair. The reader spends a great deal of time, with Janet coming across as unsure and inexperienced in spite of her clear expertise.

The book makes the interesting decision to be first person not only in a classic form, but also by being interspersed with journal entries from the very same person who narrates. Both of these are Janet Watson. The result is getting both a character’s internal monologue and their way of preferring to express their thoughts onto the page provides a fairly broad look,at the character in her specific circumstances.

It should be noted, that this volume is the second in a series, the first being the award winning A Study In Honor.  Overall this second book as a whole functions on its own, although plenty of background may be found in the first volume as to character meetings which a reader would benefit from.

A Sherlockian may or, may not like this volume, however the changes of color, gender, and orientation are, the least intrusive of these. The “friends” cannot seem to stand one, another. There is little detection in favor of personal drama, espionage, and political machination.

This book is above all else a near future thriller. That is to say it is not a mystery novel and not a detective novel in the traditional mold. There are impressive feats, but not of deduction. People perform heroic actions and gather information, but they do so for a purpose other than solving a mystery. O’dell has crafted a rather good left wing sci fi thriller, however it reveals almost no similarity to Sherlock Holmes as depicted by Arthur Conan Doyle. Going in knowing that can only help a reader appreciate the book for its own interesting characters and action oriented plot.

(HarperVoyager, 2019)

About Warner Holme

Born in the mid-south and keeps getting dragged back there. Warner Holme is well studied in fantastical and mysterious fiction.