Katherine Addison might just have made my auto-pre-order list. I loved The Goblin Emperor, and she did it again with her most recent book which is effectively Sherlock Holmes fan-fiction. The cool thing about The Angel of the Crows is how it sets things up to be kind of recognizable but then drops a detail or line that makes it really clear which story you’re in and puts things recently mentioned in new and often interesting perspectives. The world of the story is a Victorian London and general world in which vampires, werewolves, and angels openly co-exist with humans. Quite a few elements are familiar to the Sherlock Holmes re-write including the main perspective belonging to Dr. Watson, the general mysteries encountered and solved, as well as the detective’s deductive methodology. The detective figure though is Crow, an angel who does not quite have an edifice to give “him” (angel gender is complicated, even for Crow to explain) an identity, and neither does he belong to the collective angel consciousness (this Crow can and does explain). Like the original Holmes, he’s something of a misfit but he’s also the same brilliant detective who annoys the Scotland Yard police by being better at their jobs than most of them.
The Holmes-Watson dynamic is pretty great; it’s a lot more equal than the original. Watson needs Crow both as a roomie and eventually as support for some conditions and personal things of Watson’s that would be spoilers to be specific about, and Crow needs Watson to help him understand humans and as support for some of his issues with some of the Scotland Yard detectives and the angels that don’t like him because he’s not tethered/named but probably not Fallen either.
The thing that I liked at first, before the Crow-Watson relationship really got going, is that the story is going along and then suddenly there’s a line or reference that lets you know exactly which Holmes mystery you’ve just gotten into. Not only is the recognition fun, it often also puts the most recent few pages in a new perspective in terms of “that fits in with this story thusly; I seemed to have that set-up, but it makes sense now”. The same retrospective figuring it out is also used superbly well with some smaller less borrowed moments, like when something Watson reveals to the reader that Crow apparently already sort of knew both has a connection to the original mystery but with a twist, puts something another character said in a new perspective (Moriarty in this case whose more of an untrustworthy ally than murderous nemesis) and adds dimension not only to characters but also story up to this point.
The Crow-Watson starting to deal with each other’s personal issues is one thing that threads all the mysteries together, but there is also the Jack the Ripper case that appears off and on between mysteries, until it becomes the focus of the final mystery of the novel. This connectivity and continuity is something the original Holmes stories is missing, and it really works well here since it all builds up over a series of smaller mysteries and reveals.