[This post is part of Tundra Books’ blog tour for the promotion of Ellie Marney’s Every Breath. The copy I have used for this review was provided by the publisher. Thank you to Sylvia Chan for arranging this.]
When James Mycroft drags Rachel Watts off on a night mission to the Melbourne Zoo, the last thing she expects to find is the mutilated body of Homeless Dave, one of Mycroft’s numerous eccentric friends. But Mycroft’s passion for forensics leads him to realize that something about the scene isn’t right–and he wants Watts to help him investigate the murder. – [X]
Once more, I’ve been in somewhat of a Fantasy kick and honestly, I was a little reluctant to be pulled out of some seriously magical worlds, only to be pushed into a grimy murder scene in Melbourne, Australia. But guess what? If there was any book that could make the transition between genres easier- welcome, even- it’s Ellie Marney’s Every Breath.
It is always with some trepidation that I pick up something Sherlock Holmes related, and given the blurb on the jacket for Every Breath … well, I made some assumptions. The original stories, though definitely entertaining and worthy of canonizing, are not stories that I feel I can enjoy today. (To be fair, classics in general are not really my thing.) What I do love about Conan Doyle’s work is the legacy of fandom it has left behind. The sheer size of this paracanon made up of retellings, adaptations, and yes, fanfictions, allows for a crazy number and variety of stories- some of which are unfortunately unimaginative and blend together, and some of which are interesting and refreshing. Every Breath is, in my opinion, firmly set in the latter group of stories.
There are many things that I enjoyed about this new addition to the growing body of Sherlock Holmes adaptations. The first is that it isn’t set in London, England. Melbourne, Australia is a very interesting choice of setting and the details of urban life, the colloquialisms, the people, all sort of take over the borders of the story, filling it in an almost cinematic manner. The second is that Every Breath isn’t a retelling and is, in fact, a real adaptation i.e. it is completely new and shining in it’s own right. Mycroft and Watts are both high school students and are fully aware of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his famous sleuth. They think their names are a funny, funny coincidence … until they come across a murdered friend.
And really, this is what makes Mycroft and Watts special in my eyes. They are two teenagers who are investigating a murder that the police and media would surely not prioritize since the victim was homeless. Mycroft and Watts may be in over their heads, but they are both very determined and resilient characters. (It’s actually kind of funny and cute when petty things like school and parental rules get in the way of their adventuring!) Watts, who is still adjusting to city life, is incredibly well-written. She is tough and smart where Mycroft is hesitant and ignorant. She is not at all the bumbling Watson figure, but she is not without flaws or fear. It was definitely a good choice to have the story told from her POV.
Mycroft, thankfully, is not another jerk genius. He’s smarter than the average high schooler, but that intelligence does not alienate him or stop him from forming functional relationships with those around him. He does, however, struggle with some personal demons and while I found that these issues are not dealt with in a heavy-handed way, they aren’t ignored either, which is a nice touch. I like that Marney indicates that he is working through these problems rather than merely using them to make him look “interesting”. For her part, Watts does not allow Mycroft to use them as an excuse for his outbursts. All in all, when the romance begins to blossom between Mycroft and Watts, I actually began to ship it. What can I say? They may not have been Holmes and Watson, but … actually, that was it, that was the appeal- they weren‘t Holmes and Watson! Mycroft and Watts are good partners in more ways than one; theirs is a relationship of equals.
I am honestly excited to see what their next adventure has in store for them!
What You May Not Like About This One: Although Mycroft and Watts have an interesting and diverse group of friends, we don’t get to see much of them. Well, not as much as I’d hoped anyway. Also, not many visibly queer characters. But then, there are more books to come, so I have hope. Honestly, those are my only two issues with the book. Oh wait, that and the smoking. This is probably a more personal note than a critical one: Mycroft smoking, though it may suit the story and his character, is kind of a turn-off. (I constantly feel like someone should hand Watts a surgical mask.)
What You May Like About This One: Every Breath dives right into the action, Watts is an engaging narrator, Mycroft is a magnetic character, the mystery is gripping, and the romance is fun. Fans of Elementary especially may be drawn to this unique addition to the world of Sherlock Holmes.