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Mrs. Hudson and the Spirits' Curse by Martin…

Mrs. Hudson and the Spirits' Curse (2004)

by Martin Davies

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I just finished reading Mrs. Hudson and the Spirits’ Curse by Martin Davies. Mrs. Hudson is looking for a new employer (her last one committed suicide). Mrs. Hudson has an excellent reputation (as well as helping several wealthy people out of pickles) and can have her choice of housekeeping positions. However, she is looking to spice things up and wants to work for Mr. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. They have taken rooms on Baker Street. Mrs. Hudson thinks this position will be just the one for her and Flotsam (Flottie for short). Flottie was brought to Mrs. Hudson two years earlier in need of assistance. Mrs. Hudson took her in and gave her a position. She is making sure Flottie gets an education.

Mrs. Hudson is given the position and they move to their new accommodations immediately. Despite the boxes with unusual contents, the two settle in quite nicely with their new employers. Then one night just after 8 p.m. and unusual (and supposedly mysterious) man arrives with a letter and a dagger for Mr. Holmes. The letter is from Nathaniel Moran who wishes to meet with Holmes and Watson. Mr. Moran has just returned from Sumatra Islands where he and some friends established a business (Sumatra and Nassau Trading Company). They were not welcomed by the natives and were threatened. They were told they had offended the spirits and had to leave. After several deaths (including one of their own) the men fled the island. Mr. Moran had to wait to travel (in other words, the others left him behind) because he was ill (and just arrived in England). Mr. Moran claims the threat has followed him home, and he is afraid for his life (as well as his colleagues). While Sherlock and Dr. Watson start their inquiries, Mrs. Hudson (along with Flotsam) make some of their own. Who is threatening Mr. Moran and his business associates? Why did the curse follow them home? Will more people die before the mystery can be solved?

Mrs. Hudson and the Spirits’ Curse did not meet my expectations. The book makes Mrs. Hudson out to the mastermind behind Sherlock Holmes. The Sherlock makes wrong assumptions (scientific based) but wrong. Mrs. Hudson uses her common sense as well as intellect and network of friends to solve crimes. Dr. Watson’s role was reduced to errand boy (for the most part). There are many scientific terms (as well as what my father calls $10 words) used and long-winded speeches (deductions that were incorrect). The book is a cute idea, but the writer was not able to pull it off. The novel is told from Flotsam’s perspective (I would rather have had it from Mrs. Hudson’s point-of-view). This is a British novel so some of the word spellings and terms are different from those that we use in America. The mystery was very simple and a cinch to figure out. Therefore, I give Mrs. Hudson and the Spirits’ Curse 3 out of 5 stars.

I received a complimentary copy of Mrs. Hudson and the Spirits’ Curse from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The review and opinions expressed are my own. ( )
  Kris_Anderson | Jul 14, 2015 |
I don't really know how I feel about this book. If I had been editing this, it would have asked the author to just go full on and make it a YA level book. The story is told from the POV of a young woman (15 or so) and the observations and emotions that come through are teetering toward that younger level. The amount of explanation needed also puts this at a younger level, but there are quite a lot of generic adult themes that don't fit the YA market. It was uneven.

I wasn't really happy with the portrayal of Holmes and Watson. I get that the author was all "Yay Mrs. Hudson!" but for some reason the author felt the need to portray both Holmes and Watson as dense, bumbling, and unobservant. It was just odd overall. The very, very, very long explanation at the end was completely unnecessary; the reader had been along on the entire adventure and didn't need to sit through the retelling to Holmes. It also annoyed me that Mrs. Hudson seemed to know things that would save lives, but didn't bother to tell anybody--resulting in people dying or being injured. ( )
  Krumbs | Mar 31, 2013 |
This is a terrific book, and I think the first of a series. Mrs. Hudson becomes housekeeper to Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. In addition, she takes under her wing a forlorn orphan named Flotsam, who narrates the story.

The mystery was satisfyingly complex, and the characters were well-rounded. The life on the streets of London is atmospheric and compelling. Humor abounds, especially when Mrs. Hudson comes up with one of her homey maxims - which lead Mr. Holmes to ponder new signature lines. (Mrs H: "Once you eliminate what is inedible, what remains must needs be supper." Holmes: "Hmmmmmmm....yes....")

Needless to say, I really enjoyed this book, and will be looking for others in a series. Recommended. ( )
  MerryMary | Mar 9, 2012 |
Okay, when I heard that this series *existed* - the series in which Holmes is fairly incompetent and Mrs. Hudson is secretly feeding him all the clues - I knew I wanted try it out, even if it was crack-addled and/or just plain bad.

It's not just plain bad! It is not amazingly wondrously good, and this one shows the signs of being a first novel, but it is perfectly competent, and it knows its entire concept is over-the-top and owns that fact thoroughly. Also, Raffles randomly shows up to help out his old friend Mrs. Hudson. :D

However, it is canon fail. Remember where I was annoyed that Irene Norton in the Carole Nelson Douglas series is a soprano, rather than a contralto? Mrs. Hudson makes that look like nothing. To start with, Mrs. Hudson in this series is a hired housekeeper rather than landlady/manager of a boarding house, which makes a rather majorly important difference in who she is, class-wise and backstory-wise. It's necessary to the story - a lot of the detectiving she does involves having access to servants' gossip and back staircases; and (though I'm not sure the author realized it) it's an interesting callback to several of the earliest fictional detectives leading up to Holmes, a number of whom were women in service. But she is *not* the Mrs. Hudson I knew from canon. Having her be hired also overlooks the most interesting thing about Mrs. Hudson in canon, too, that being why she didn't evict them after a month. Connected with that, Davies completely screws up the chronology of Holmes & Watson's early association. And for some inexplicable reason, Watson is an art collector. And while Douglas at least tried to address her divergences from a Watsonian/unreliable narrative perspective, Davies really, really doesn't.

If I ignore that, though, and take the book on its own terms, I quite like it. I may even like it better than the Irene Adler novel, despite the relative clunkiness of the storytelling. Mrs. Hudson is wonderful, always on top of things and understanding everything, from clues to emotions, several steps ahead of Holmes, and supercompetently managing a household at the same time. And I think I am in love with the relationship here between Holmes and Mrs. Hudson (no, not romantic, though apparently there's a movie somewhere in which it is); Holmes in the Adler novel is a remote and somewhat alien creature, very good at what he does but limited. I think that's great within what Douglas was trying to do, of deliberately reversing the gender roles that Doyle uses, but Holmes is a better character in the Davies novel. He's good but fallible, and willing to admit when he's fallible and accept help and correction from Mrs. Hudson with an astonishing amount of grace for a character who's still recognizable as canon Holmes. It also assumes that at least part of the time that Watson assumes Holmes is out and about doing mysterious detectivey things, he's actually sitting at Mrs. Hudson's kitchen table, stealing baked goods, and willingly learning from her the kind of things a housekeeper knows that might be useful for a detective. (It's really something I can believe from canon - Holmes has to have learned his disguises, and the cultures that go with them, somehow, and there's only a limited amount you can learn from sitting gruffly in a bar without actually being willing to make friends with people who will teach you, of all genders and all classes. That Watson only rarely mentioned this may say more about Watson and his audience than about the circle of Holmes's acquaintance - though I would love, love to see fandom do something awesome with the eccentric naturalist from Sign of the Four. Not to mention the Irregulars, of course.)

And I like Mrs. Hudson's Watson - Flotty, the orphan and former street kid - a lot more than I like Irene's Nell. Oh, Flotty is utterly Dickensianly over-the-top, the starving ragamuffin rescued literally from the gutter by Mrs. Hudson and then taught housekeeping and service as well as reading, writing, 'rithmatic, Latin, chemistry, and for all I know, Ancient Greek poetic composition; also, put on equal terms with (handsome and unconventional) titled aristocracy and the depths of the criminal underworld. I don't really mind, though, because I knew going in that this was crack, and it never gets anything sillier than might show up in a novel from the period. So while Nell's a lot more believable, Flottie's voice is a lot more *fun*. And her mentoring relationship with Mrs. Hudson is warm and deep and sweet.

As to the mystery itself: it's the Giant Rat of Sumatra! Somebody actually wrote the Giant Rat of Sumatra and it wasn't a Princess Bride crossover! And, being about Sumatra, it *did* have to confront colonialism directly. I would love to see a judgement on this from someone with better judgement about it than I; but I think Davies actually managed to do it with minimal fail. You have to be willing to trust through the beginning of the story, where it looks like it's going to be vaguely along the line of Sign of Four, but by the time you get to the end, the story has condemned colonialism and all its evils much more strongly than Doyle could ever have dared (without turning the novel into a sermon about it.) No more details for fear of spoilers, but it almost gave me confidence that it's possible to write Holmes fic that addresses the Empire and do it well without losing the things that make me like Holmesverse.

I think the main reason I like it better, though, is that when you're writing a historical novel about a woman who is awesome and breaks out of expectations, you basically have three choices: a) a woman who has left respectability behind and is quite happy to live outside its protection (movieverse Irene); b) a woman who has come to understand that respectability isn't everything, but it is *something*, and has learned to move between the two roles with grace and impunity (bookverse Irene); and c) a woman who is so thoroughly respectable that she can do almost anything she wants, because anything she does is by definition respectable, because she defines respectable (movieverse Mary).

Types A and B can be lots of fun, but when there's a character who properly embodies C, I adore them deeply. It's harder, I think, because you have to be willing to really look deep in to standard stereotypes and roles, and you have to make the character earn it, but it's a method of working around society's boundaries that I think gets too often overlooked in modern fiction (and I think describes how far more real women survived than the outright, in-your-face rebels.) And Mrs. Hudson, in this story, is type C to her marrow, and you actually get to see the process of her teaching Flotty how to become the same (and what happens when Flotty overreaches and doesn't quite pull it off.)

(Mrs. Hudson! More people need to write about Mrs. Hudson, yo! If Martin Davies can do it, so can you!)

Verdict: Fun but not life-changing; would read more if I stumbled upon it. Also, very glad it exists. ( )
  melannen | Mar 22, 2010 |
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This book is dedicated to my father, a truly great storyteller
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It was Scraggs, the grocer's boy, taking pity on my impoverished circumstances and the collapse of my spirits, who made the introduction that was to change my life.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0425198456, Paperback)

Entering into service as housekeeper for the distinguished investigator Sherlock Holmes and his associate Dr. Watson, Mrs. Hudson expands her duties beyond keeping things tidy.

The great detective's latest client is a traveler recently returned from the Far East-and nearly killed under mysterious circumstances. He says he's under a Sumatran curse that will end his life.

While Holmes and Watson seek a less superstitious solution to the man's dilemma, Mrs. Hudson and Flottie, the orphan girl in her care, take it upon themselves to investigate the case. They are determined to solve the mystery-even if it entails pointing Mrs. Hudson's employers in the right direction.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:01 -0400)

"Newly employed as housekeeper to the eminent detective Sherlock Homes and the ever-present Dr. Watson, the stalwart Mrs. Hudson tends to mind her own affairs as long as others mind theirs. But when a terrified young man shows up pleading for help from Holmes, she finds herself a bit more involved than usual. It seems that the young man, recently returned from the Far East, claims to be living in mortal fear of a Sumatran curse he's fallen under, which has already caused him to experience a narrow escape from death. Holmes, of course, doesn't believe in such rubbish, and goes about searching for a more earthbound explanation, with Watson's help." "Mrs. Hudson doesn't believe in curses either, but she does know that there's more than one way to catch a killers. So, using her own inimitable common sense and somewhat formidable personality, she sets out to solve the case with the assistance of the loyal Flottie - an orphan girl she rescued from a wretched fate. Even as she finds herself one step ahead of her own employer at times, Mrs. Hudson soon realizes that in this game of lethal cat-and-mouse, catching a killer is one thing - but keeping a killer from catching you is quite another."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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