Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Every Breath by Ellie Marney

Every Breath  It's Holmes and Watson as teenagers in Australia.  Rachel Watts is a country girl whose family moved to the city after her family lost the farm to the bank.  She misses open spaces and hates the city.  One of the few bright spots in her new life is her neighbor and friend James Mycroft, a teenage boy with an above average IQ and an interest in forensics.  When he and Watts stumble upon the dead body of their friend Dave, Mycroft suggests that he and Watts solve their friend's murder.  Watts is reluctant at first but who can resist a good mystery?  Especially when the police are completely barking up the wrong tree.  They aren't even looking for Dave's dog Poodle, which by the way isn't a poodle, that's just his name.  Mycroft is sure Poodle is the key.  Watts agrees and with that the game is afoot!

Conan Doyle's famous detective has been reincarnated in multiple mediums in recent years.  There's the BBC's Sherlock, Elementary on CBS, and the movies with Robert Downey, Jr, to name a few.  They each offer something a little different.  In all cases, Holmes is a man (where's the female Holmes, I wonder) with acute observation skills, strange hobbies, an ability to recall obscure facts about a wide variety of subjects, and a talent for pissing people off.  For me the most interesting part of a Sherlock Holmes' mystery is both how Holmes solves it and how he interacts with other characters.  The unresolved question in every story (admittedly I haven't read all of the Doyle's work) is how Holmes got to be the way he is.  One of things I really enjoyed about Ellie Marney's Every Breath is that she provides her ideas about why Holmes is the way he is.

In Marney's version Mycroft, as her prefers to be called, is an orphan living with an aunt with whom he barely speaks.  The tragic and violent death of his parents has given Holmes a certain amount of purpose in life, that of solving crimes.  It has also left him sad, lonely, and at times self-destructive. He's a kid on the verge of adulthood who suffered a catastrophic loss and who is trying to figure out how to move forward and sometimes failing at it.

This isn't a straightforward reincarnation of Doyle's detective.  Watts and Mycroft live in modern day Melbourne and are fully aware of the fictional detective.  They and their friends Mai and Gus make jokes about it.  If anything, Sherlock is a detective that Mycroft admires and perhaps aspires to be.  His friends have to remind him periodically that he is not Sherlock and this actions can have real consequences.

Every Breath was very, very good and I look forward to reading the next two books in the series.  That may be difficult as the series was initially published in Australia.  I was lucky to find this book at a library but so far haven't found any American libraries that carry the other two books in the series.  Hopefully they will grow in popularity and start showing up on this continent.

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