Dorothy Elllen Palmer’s Wiggins: Son of Sherlock represents an interesting variation. Telling the tale from the point of view of an elderly individual whom in youth was Wiggins, it takes a wide apprach to re interpreting the classic stories.
The timeline is quite skewed from Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories. Our lead is the child of Irene Adler and Sherlock Holmes, yet somehow is also playing the role of Wiggins in the stories. Given Wiggins appears in “A Study In Scarlet”, the idea he was conceived after “A Scandal in Bohemia” is bizzare. Further, as one discovers when I see what Irene Adler is like in the book, her status as of Wiggins meeting Sherlock Holmes makes it impossible for the events of that story to take place after such time. Even the chapter in which our opinionated narrator seeks to challenge the events of “A Scandal in Bohemia” does nothing to fix this, save suggest Watson was of relatively little import to Holmes (worth no more,than a joke according to page 98) and attempt to fix the timeline by muddling it still further. The simplest fix to this would be for the author to have made someone other than Adler the mother, but she chose as she did.
Some letters are used to try to justify this, however they are written in less-than subtle code which would make no sense if written during Irene’s early days, however the the narrator starts out questioning their authenticity, and the reader is likely to roll their eyes ask them if they are anything but fantasies or reconstructions of a long broken mind. Rendering the letters so that a potential love interest is called Home Boy shows nothing in the way of making them seem genuine, allthough it does add entertainment for a reader.
The decision to make what little the reader sees of Irene Adler be as a vindictive diseased and mentally unwell individual on her deathbed is most unusual. The turn of making her somewhat a fundamentalist Christian type even more so. Adler is usually depicted as a respectable adventuress in her own right, or at the very least a fiercely independent woman. Even in letters that so not the case for this story, making the famed woman a much less revolutionary character.
The lead, Wiggins, is looking back on her childhood from a ripe old age (the 1960’s are mentioned in passing) and as a result seeing much for folly. This is an interesting way to look at the matter, and a rather well chosen point of view. There are actions taken that can seem foolish, and allusions made to materials and events long after those in the text proper. Dorothy Ellen Palmer makes liberal use of these, referencing tie dye shirts and the hippie movement in reference to earlier reformists such as abolitionists.
Various stories are told in condensed form and then treated as erroneous. This is nothing new to pastiche, and after the likes do The Seven Per-Cent solution will not scandalize the familiar reader. This volume even manages to include the odd historical character, such as P.T. Barnum and Jack the Ripper, in interesting roles. Indeed The variation upon the ripper to appear so quite fascinating, all told.
Far more dividing will be that sex is dealt with in a freak and quite direct manner in the book. Jokes about penises amd a discussion of,female anatomy,taking place a mere,few pages from each other. This is easier to accept narratively due to the 1960’s writing,the book alleges, but,will startle anyone expecting something remotely like Doyle’s work.
There is a lovely afterward in which the author takes her time to explain what the characters meant to her in youth, and a few pertinent historical facts. It is lovely.
Dorothy Elllen Palmer’s Wiggins: Son of Sherlock is not for anyone looking to read a Sherlockian story as it is known. It is not a traditional Watsonian tale, nor even one of the more common variations upon reinventon. It is a well written reinvention and reexamination of the classic concepts and characters. Certainly worth a look to someone a bit tired of standard Sherlock Holmes pastiche, me, someone wishing for surprises. It is well told, and a reader will look forward to seeing what else Dorothy Ellen Palmer creates.
(MX Books, 2021)