Janet Watson, after enlisting to protect her country in the New Civil War, was honorably discharged when a sniper’s bullet took off her arm. Finding work in a medical field with only a half working artificial limb is difficult, if impossible, so when she is offered to be roommates with a friend’s acquaintance, she has little choice but to accept.
Why this book?: I believe it was my friend Elise who brought this queer, Sherlock Holmes retelling to my attention. I love Sherlock Holmes, and always looking for more retellings.
When I was younger, think maybe 13-15, I was still under the illusion that good readers only read classics. So, because I still wanted to read something fun, I immersed myself in reading Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, and I loved them. However, as I grew up, I wanted something more. I wanted those stories to be more diverse, more interesting, and maybe a bit different from Doyle’s originals. And then I found A Study in Honor.
O’Dell starts out the story with some interesting world building, dropping the reader in a near future where the United States has broken into another Civil War, caused by white supremacists who were basically encouraged by the previous president (I loved the little, ah, references to the current political mess in the White House). What really got to me was that what O’Dell wrote out here in this story could very well happen. The technology was just slightly more advanced than ours currently, so I thought it was fairly accurate and likely to happen. So I really have to admit that I loved the world building for what it was–an honest predication to what the current US society might one day turn into.
As for the characters, I could see the very shadow of the original character in each respectable character. I saw Sherlock in Sara, and I saw John in Janet, but that was really it. They each had their own, independent character from Doyle’s originals and I have to admit…I enjoyed them more than I expected. As people, they were horrible. Sara was manipulative and just out-right dangerous, and Janet had anger management issues. As characters, they were wonderfully developed and I was fascinated with their development as friends. It was a wild ride, following those two around, and that definitely kept me interested. Even better, they were both black and sapphic (although I didn’t see much of the sapphic, besides Janet mentioning an ex), and Janet is disabled and dealing with PTSD.
But I was also looking for the mystery. This was a Sherlock Holmes retelling, so as much as I was excited for two, black sapphic leads, I wanted that mystery. It wasn’t until about the halfway mark in my ebook that I finally found the hints of a mystery, and it was resolved much too easily for a Sherlock Holmes retelling. It was really disappointing, because I was so excited for this mystery, but it never really showed up. O’Dell instead took the time to develop the two characters, and completely forgot about the mystery that was supposed to be the whole point of a Sherlock Holmes story.
It was also the ending that really frustrated me. (The next few sentences have spoilery hints, so if you don’t want to be spoiled at all, just skip to the rating.)
In the beginning, you’re introduced to Sara’s main problem, the fact that she doesn’t have a working prosthetic arm. However, the ending is wrapped up so quickly that it was infuriating, and O’Dell scoops up the rest of the problems she left hanging, such as Sara’s prosthetic, and quickly solves all of them with one fellow swoop. What was the point in creating all of these problems for Sara if she was just going to solve them all with one simple solution?
Final Rating: ★★★☆☆
While I enjoyed the characters’ development, and while I enjoyed the world building, there were other points that just frustrated me. The fact that the mystery, the main component of a Sherlock Holmes story, didn’t begin to form until the halfway mark, and the fact that the ending was just far too convenient was also annoying. While I liked this book, I’m extremely torn on if I want to read the upcoming sequel, The Hound of Justice.
Would I Recommend?
Hm. That depends on what’s important to you in a story. While this story was missing a solid mystery and a good ending, the characters and world building were fantastic. If you’re okay with certain components of a story missing, then I would say go for it! Especially if you like your Sherlock Holmes retellings with black, sapphic, female leads, where one is disabled and dealing with PTSD, and the other is a sarcastic asshole.
Published: July 31st, 2018
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Page Count: 304
Genre: Mystery/Science Fiction
Synopsis: via Goodreads
Dr. Janet Watson knows firsthand the horrifying cost of a divided nation. While treating broken soldiers on the battlefields of the New Civil War, a sniper’s bullet shattered her arm and ended her career. Honorably discharged and struggling with the semi-functional mechanical arm that replaced the limb she lost, she returns to the nation’s capital, a bleak, edgy city in the throes of a fraught presidential election. Homeless and jobless, Watson is uncertain of the future when she meets another black and queer woman, Sara Holmes, a mysterious yet playfully challenging covert agent who offers the doctor a place to stay.
Watson’s readjustment to civilian life is complicated by the infuriating antics of her strange new roommate. But the tensions between them dissolve when Watson discovers that soldiers from the New Civil War have begun dying one by one—and that the deaths may be the tip of something far more dangerous, involving the pharmaceutical industry and even the looming election. Joining forces, Watson and Holmes embark on a thrilling investigation to solve the mystery—and secure justice for these fallen soldiers.
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