Over My Dead Body
Over My Dead Body by Dave Warner has an irresistible concept (at least for me): what if Sherlock Holmes was frozen in his plunge over the Reichenbach Falls and woken in the current day? And what if he wound up working with a female descendent of Dr. Watson?
It’s not an original idea, of course — there are at least two TV movies with the same premise. (The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1987) also uses cryogenics; the better Sherlock Holmes Returns (1993) stars Anthony Higgins, who was also a major character in Young Sherlock Holmes.) But it’s a fun one, as there’s plenty of entertainment value in seeing the great detective exercise his skills in modern-day New York. (An afterword by the author laments how he had the idea before Elementary, which features a female Watson in NYC.)
In this case, Georgette Watson is attempting to get funding for her research into cryonics, reawakening animals after they’ve been frozen for increasing lengths of time. She sometimes helps her father Harry, a NYPD cop, with cause of death at crime scenes.
Then a Scottish cousin shows up with the diary of their ancestor, John Watson, with indications that he had been experimenting in a similar way. While he couldn’t find a way to wake Holmes, Georgette succeeds. The two end up chasing a serial killer. (The sections of the killer’s internal monologue are completely unnecessary, slowing down the book.)
I enjoyed the read well enough, but I would have preferred a different balance of material. My favorite parts of any of these kinds of stories are the cultural contrasts. The author seemed more interested in going into (too much, imo) detail about the unfreezing process and spinning out a case that is nothing special. It reminded me of any number of generic TV procedural episodes. Holmes and Georgette interact most often as co-workers, focusing on the case — I wanted to see much more of them interacting as people.
Of course, we get the requisite “what do you mean, cocaine is now illegal?” scene, but otherwise, Holmes fits in surprisingly quickly. The scene where he tries to teach Georgette self-defense is a high point. By the midpoint of the book, though, I was pushing myself to finish, instead of being eager to continue.
The thing I will be left with, although it’s a relatively small part of the novel, is how disappointed and sad John Watson must have been, that he spent so many years trying to revive Holmes and couldn’t. That was the most potent bit of emotion, and it was just mentioned in passing. Similarly, there was one short scene, a couple of pages halfway through the book, where Holmes tells Georgette about her ancestor and their friendship. I’d have liked more of that, but it comes off somewhat dry, as though Holmes is sketching a character instead of mourning a good friend.
This project (again, via the author’s notes) began life as a media pitch, and those roots may have influenced the story and character development. It’s much harder to create personalities that resonate with a reader without actors to fill out the roles.