I have really started off the year reading some great books! I'm not afraid to give a bad review or single star ratings and as I start reviewing with more purpose, I've challenged myself to not shy away from being critical. So far this year however, I've picked some pretty great books off of my TBR shelf to read. Yay me!
I love Sherlock Holmes and usually manage to either re-read one of Sir A C Doyle's stories or find a book that reimagines Sherlock Holmes in some way. In this case, Anna Kronberg is practicing as a doctor in 1889 London and meets Sherlock Holmes when they are both called in to examine a dead body found floating in the Thames. Dr. Anna Kronberg is a preeminent bacteriologist and there is concern that the deceased man may have contaminated the waterway with cholera.
Rather than the murder itself, it's another puzzle that initially draws Holmes' attention - the fact that Dr. Anna Kronberg is actually living and practicing medicine as Dr. Anton Kronberg...a man. She is doing this because it was very difficult for women to become practicing doctors and it was not until 1876 that England passed a law that allowed women to enter the medical profession. While this is 13 years before this story takes place, I can't imagine that it was particularly easy for women to become practicing doctors and in fact, the few women who managed to get a medical degree in England often chose to leave due to societal pressure and practice in other countries. For many reasons, Anna Kronberg made the decision to live as a man in order to be a doctor. The fact that Sherlock Holmes is the only one who has discovered her secret is not unbelievable given Holmes' investigative gifts. A quote from The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle fits perfectly here: "My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people do not know".
Needless to say, what appeared to be one more poor unfortunate who died and was disposed of in the Thames actually turns out to be indicative of something far more sinister. The Metropolitan Police quickly lose interest in the case but both Anna and Holmes continue to follow the evidence.
I find the partnership between Holmes and Kronberg believable. They are both logical, smart and not fulfilled unless their intellect is challenged. They certainly challenge each other in this book. I particularly like when Kronberg turns Holmes' methods of deduction against him. She did so early in the story in response to Holmes' analysis of her reasons for practicing medicine as a man. After she turns the tables on Holmes and concludes that his brilliance requires constant stimulation and goes on to deduce his use of cocaine and the playing of the violin, she turns on him with "It feels like a stranger just ripped off all your clothes, doesn't it? Don't you dare dig into my private life again."
While the mystery is straight forward, the character of Dr. Anna Kronberg and the relationship she has with Sherlock Holmes is unique and original.