Thursday, December 26, 2013

Review: The Arnifour Affair by Gregory Harris

Received ARC from publisher via NetGalley.
Release date: January 28, 2014

The first in a planned series, this is pretty much a Holmes and Watson mystery with different names. Colin Pendragon is the eccentric and unorthodox but brilliant observationalist and private detective. Ethan Pruitt is the more down-to-earth medical sidekick and roommate who serves as narrator. While he makes a point of clarifying that he’s not a doctor, presumably in attempts to set him apart from Watson, he apparently picked up a lot of medical knowledge during his time as a drug addict in the slums. I’m not really sure how that equates to informally gaining some basic biological understanding but it was obvious the author did not want to lose Watson’s medical training entirely since it’s often beneficial during investigations. However, Pruitt’s fall from grace in the past certainly sets him apart from Watson more than not being a doctor does. Additionally, Pendragon abhors drug useage because of what it did to Pruitt and this sets him apart from Holmes.

There’s been suggestions of a homosexual relationship between Holmes and Watson and the author capitalizes on that with Pendragon and Pruitt. Nothing explicit, of course, but it’s clear from the beginning the two protagonists have a romantic relationship and I do wonder if this was the main reason for not simply writing another Holmes mystery, given that many Holmes fans would object to it.

The story opens around the “turn of the century” and after Pendragon and Pruitt have been together for twelve years already. This also fits with the timeline of Holmes and Watson, who met in 1881 so twelve years later would put us around 1893, roughly turn of the century.

Pendragon and Pruitt live together in a home in London maintained by their maid and cook, a grumpy old woman who I suppose is meant to be Mrs. Hudson. And their investigations mean they frequently clash with Inspector Varcoe, who may take the place of Doyle’s Inspector Lestrade.

On one hand, the fact that it was basically just a Sherlock Holmes novel with different names made it feel unoriginal but on the other hand, the fact that it’s not a Holmes story allowed for a little more creative freedom. It was well written and the dialogue was good, but every once and a while the characters would do something a little unrealistic or out of character. There's a lot going on with a main plot and a subplot which keeps the pace moving and makes it very readable.

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