As a book reviewer, I try to keep an open mind. That said, when author Jennifer Petkus approached me with a book she described as a Sherlock Holmes and Jane Austen mashup, I was a little bit dubious. For one thing, the word “mashup,” while descriptive, doesn’t usually conjure visions of loveliness in my mind. Thankfully, Jennifer’s book is far lovelier than the sound of its genre.
My Particular Friend takes place in Jane Austen’s world, but its characters belong to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle—sort of. The narrator is a young lady of reduced means named Jane Woodsen, and her subject is another young lady named Charlotte House. As you might imagine, these two women correspond to Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson.
Jane Austen’s world would hardly allow for a female detective in the traditional vein, and Petkus’s clever solution is to make Charlotte a matrimonial specialist—a person who investigates and assists with all manner of difficulties related to love, courtship, and marriage. As in Doyle’s stories, Jane quickly becomes Charlotte’s right-hand man (er, woman), and mysterious hijinks ensue, told in the manner of episodic stories that lightly connect to one another.
Of particular note is the masterful characterization of Charlotte as a feminized Sherlock Holmes. I’ve never seen anyone do it better, even when they weren’t changing Holmes’s gender. Petkus has clearly captured Holmes’s wit, humor, brilliance, and idiosyncrasies.
Beyond the basics, Petkus’s book is difficult to describe because of its originality. It’s witty, funny, intelligent, and chock full of both Holmes and Austen. Fans of either or both will find a great deal to appreciate. P.G. Wodehouse fans will even find a lot to love in a sly appearance by Bertie Wooster.
Of all the books I’ve reviewed, My Particular Friend is one of my favorites. It’s a French macaron—light and airy, with a center that is deliciously witty and endlessly hilarious. There’s nothing traditional about it, and it’s absolutely worth the read.
Buy it on Amazon.
The Detective, The Woman and The Winking Tree: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.