by Kaoru Shintani; adapted by Janet Houck
published by Seven Seas Entertainment; $16.99 US
It could have gone horribly wrong, but by inserting a cute little prodigy into classic Sherlock Holmes cases, I found the mysteries taking on fresh enjoyment for me.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I ordered Young Miss Holmes blind. I was hoping for a mystery manga series, since there aren’t as many of those as I’d like to read, but any time a series is promoted based on its young female lead, there is the potential for all kinds of ookiness. Thankfully, Lady Christie Hope is a charming young person with a prodigious intellect. She’s the daughter of Holmes’ sister, but her parents have left her in England while they reside in India.
She’s fascinated by her uncle’s cases, puzzling out how he makes his deductions and sometimes beating him to the punch through her own devices. She humanizes him, too, as someone who can otherwise seem chilly and remote. I particularly like it when she comes up with key information through considering the more social aspects, since that’s something she has to know better than he does. He is invited into a case by the police, for instance, but she enters the scene with a call to pay her respects after a death, as the local aristocracy is supposed to, or by serving as an appropriate companion for the daughter of the family. She can check out a young victim by cooing over a baby, while Holmes and Watson take a more formal investigation path.
Christie’s supporting cast is entertaining as well. She is sometimes accompanied by a giant hound named Nelson, sized suitably enough for her to ride him if need be. Her two housemaids, Nora and Annmarie, are opposite personalities. Annmarie is concerned with propriety, both for her charge and her fellow maid. Nora, on the other hand, is only learning to read, but she’s very street smart and skilled with a whip. Together, they fit the various sides of Lady Christie as well as serving as bodyguards. Christie also has quite the observant governess, a Grace Dunbar who admires her intelligence while teaching her softer skills.
There’s a good sense of the appropriate time period, although it’s not drawn with slavish detail. Instead, there’s a mood created of the kind of Victorian world we dream about when we read the original Sherlock Holmes stories, all gentry and estates and London streets. The dialogue flavor given to Christie supports that as well, with a formal but not unfriendly tone. I like the attention to manners and dress that gives this series its historical flavor. It’s amusing when, for example, Holmes is discussing the possibility of a woman having an affair, and Watson is turning colors at the thought of a young lady hearing about such things.
This double-sized volume, a terrific value, contains the cases of the Mazarin Stone (a missing diamond), Thor Bridge (a family murder), the Red-Headed League (theft and swindles), and the Adventure of the Dancing Men (code-breaking). I’m glad they bound up more than just the introductory book, since the series takes a little while to settle into its groove, but by the end of this volume, it’s clicking well.
Also included is “The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire”, which has been transformed into a crossover with Dance in the Vampire Bund. While the Holmes case involves a fake monster, Christie encounters a real one, as she hangs out briefly with Mina Tepes. The vampire princess and Lady Christie have a certain similarity of temperament, while Sekiko, a stocky vampire maid, provides comic relief in this, the longest story in the book. (Which I guess justifies promoting the appearance with a belly band wrapper.) There’s also a four-page epilogue drawn by Vampire Bund creator Nozomu Tamaki.
Young Miss Holmes makes me want to pull out the originals and reread them, which is my way of complimenting this volume. The stories shed new light on the classic tales, and I’d like to read more.