I can’t imagine the guts it would take for an author to use another writer’s character, especially a character as iconic as, say, Sherlock Holmes, for several reasons. First, you have to worry about pissing off fans of the original character. Second, you might have to negotiate copyright issues. And third, you have to do something with the character to make it your own, and make it new. Yowza. If you want to see where this idea goes right, I recommend that you pick up this series. (If you want to see where, in my opinion, this idea goes dreadfully wrong, try picking up the “sequels” to Pride and Prejudice. Some of them, I understand from the plot synopses, look down right pornographic.)
Over the weekend, I’ve zipped through the first three books in Laurie R. King’s Holmes and Russell series: The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, A Monstrous Regiment of Women, and A Letter of Mary. I just started a sentence that descriped the plot, and I found that I couldn’t right one without it sounding silly or uninteresting. Okay, let’s try that again. In the first book, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, a young orphan, Mary Russell, stumbles across Sherlock Holmes in his retirement. Over the course of that book, Russell becomes Holmes’ apprentice and then partner.
I think what I like about these books is that, through King, I get to see Holmes through the eyes of an intellectual equal. I have never liked books, such as the original Holmes stories or the Hercule Poirot novels, in which the main character has someone thick to act as their foil. Plus, I never liked that those stories usually involved a sentence to the effect of, “Ah, but Hastings/Watson/etc., if you had known this bit of information that I have known about for fifty of more pages, you would already know who committed the crime.” Mysteries, for me, are a chance to flex my brain muscles. Some people do crosswords, I try to beat the detective to the punch.