Pairing: Gen (background Watson/Mrs. Hudson)
Length: 21,770 words
Verse: Шерлок Холмс | Sherlock Holmes (TV 2013) [AKA New Russian Holmes]
Author's summary: Just weeks after they foil Moriarty’s plot against the queen, another case comes to Holmes and Watson, this time in the form of a dead girl found along the banks of the Thames. Case fic.
Reccer's comments: This was one of the stand-out fics from the Winter ‘16 holmestice exchange for me, but it didn’t seem to get the attention it deserved. It’s understandable in a way—it’s a rare ‘verse, and the content warnings may have put some people off too. To begin with the warnings—the author states: nonexplicit, background dubcon; PTSD flashbacks; adaptation-typical gore. If it helps, the gore refers to descriptions of bodies after death, and the dub-con is talked about as having happened but there are no specifics and no descriptions.
Regarding the ‘verse itself: I think as long as you’re prepared to just go with it and accept the differences from the ACD original, you won’t find anything confusing. (I myself had only seen a clip of the series before reading the fic.) The concept of this ‘verse is that these are the real people and the real world behind Watson’s stories. So it may seem bizarre at first that Watson has married Mrs. Hudson, but she isn’t the elderly, motherly Mrs. Hudson we traditionally think of. And Holmes is not an idealised hero. People don’t automatically defer to him simply because he’s Sherlock Holmes; he isn’t in charge of justice the way the ACD Holmes is. We are used on the whole to seeing the ACD Holmes handing criminals over to the police, or giving them a second chance and choosing to let them go. But this Holmes doesn’t have control over either of these situations.
The plot concerns Holmes and Watson trying to bring to justice a man who has been sexually abusing women and then going on to murder some of them. The case isn’t a mystery: the name of the criminal is given to Holmes fairly early on by one of the victims, Kitty Winter. And if it weren’t for all the damage he’s done to so many people, I would describe the murderer as an incidental character—he takes no active part in this fic. This is the point of the story I suppose: it isn’t something that glamorises murder and its perpetrator—the focus is on the victims, both living and dead.
Admittedly this is a bleak story. However, that is balanced by the sheer quality of the writing, how well-drawn the characters are, and how engaging the story is. I always think the hardest thing for a writer is to remove themself entirely from their work and leave the reader alone with the characters. And this writing is so unobtrusive. There is no barrier between the reader and the story—you’re right there in the middle of it.
And even though there is no happy ending, I don’t think the story is entirely without hope. Watson is more pessimistic than Holmes, but we come away knowing both men will always carry on doing the best they can in a highly imperfect world.