Sherlock Holmes and the Molly-Boy Murders

In Sherlock Holmes and the Molly-Boy Murders, Margaret Walsh manages quite the feat: she combines the traditional feel of a classic Holmes pastiche with a modern sensibility when it comes to characters and motivations, enlivened with flashes of dry humor.

Someone is killing and mutilating young men who dress as women. The variety of characters include a well-meaning woman who runs a safe house for young men of this type, a young baronet and his private secretary, and a medical examiner named Dr. Bond. Mycroft Holmes makes an appearance in conjunction with the disappearance of one of his intelligence agents, investigating the growing movement for giving women the vote.

As Holmes says, “We are surrounded by strong-minded women in this case, Watson…. Refreshing, is it not?”

Dr. Watson demonstrates a welcome level head and a solid intelligence, although he’s passionate when needed. He also contributes a useful amount of medical knowledge and educates Holmes on the nature of tight-lacing a corset. Inspector Lestrade, growing beyond being the jealous, rat-faced man Arthur Conan Doyle first described, is “steadfast and discreet”, observant in his own right, as well as having a welcome “live and let live” attitude. There is a camaraderie among him, Holmes, and Watson, as they have meals together while discussing the case.

Sherlock Holmes and the Molly-Boy Murders

These versions of the characters felt authentic to me (with perhaps the small exception of Mycroft’s stick-in-the-mud “but we’re British and thus old-fashioned” attitudes), although I could see signs of media influence. The Holmes brothers arguing with each other seemed more like the BBC Sherlock than the original stories, while the way Watson apologizes for Sherlock’s behavior, and their occasional jibes at each other, reminded me of the Downey/Law movies. (They do compliment each other as well.)

Throughout reading, I was caught up in following the various twists and turns of the mystery. The question of how trans people lived back then is not one that had occurred to me prior, but it’s a fascinating one to explore. It also provides an excellent chance for Holmes, Watson, and Lestrade to demonstrate discretion, compassion, and justice for those forced to live outside of society.

For those who find traditional Holmes pastiches a little too stodgy but enjoy reading the classic character versions, this is an excellent choice.

Sherlock Holmes and the Molly-Boy Murders is available in paperback or as a digital edition. There are two more Sherlock Holmes novels by the same author, Sherlock Holmes and The Case of The Perplexed Politician and Sherlock Holmes and The Case of The London Dock Deaths.

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