This novel series poses a young Holmes apprentice showing up in the detective’s early old age and becoming a beloved niece kind of character. The book quickly dispels any sense of attraction or impropriety by establishing a chaste and avuncular relationship. But what it does establish is Mary Russell’s capacity as the same kind of thinker and detective as Holmes. She’s sometimes criticized as a “Mary Sue”, that old misogynistic canard, because she’s so good. But really she’s good at three things, really: detection, chess, and throwing rocks, which is a relatively small list.
I am not entirely the audience for a book like this as I tend to be a little suspect of parodic/pastiche literature of famous other works and writers. This one mostly works for a few key reasons. When you read Sherlock Holmes, you see gaps. This is both in terms of the timeline and biography of the character himself. He has this kind of Paul Bunyan type persona in which he seems to be 100 years old in some ways of looking at him, and in other ways, it’s like only 5 years pass from the beginning to the end. This book works within those gaps, especially from the tail-end of His Last Bow and The Valley of Fear and into his retirement as a beekeeper.
The only issue I have with this novel is that its scope is too broad for a Holmes novels and not broad enough for a collection of stories. It’s a more traditional novel, something that Holmes tends not to be a part of.