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Book Review: The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard

Thursday, September 19, 2019 - 07:00
book cover

Everyone and their cousin is using the relationships and themes of Sherlock Holmes as inspiration for characters in decidedly non-English non-Edwardian non-mimetic settings these days. Some of them are doing it very well--sometimes so well that the Holmesian framework is almost unnecessary as an underpinning for the story. (I’m thinking of more than this one novel in this context, but this is the one I’m reviewing at the moment.) This story retains the mystery framework, the enigmatic and cerebral investigator who plays everything very close to their chest, and the traumatized narrator in a healing-related profession who plays an essential supporting role. But “Watson” is a brain-ship whose deep-space trauma has restricted them to the spaceport profession of creating psychologically active teas to treat people undergoing space travel, and “Sherlock” has a dark history that may or may not be related to the investigation that takes them out into the dangerous parts of space. I enjoyed this contribution to the loosely-connected Xuya story-verse, though it was a bit more relaxed and comfortable than some of my favorite brain-stretching encounters. I’m not entirely sure that it needs to be a Sherlock Holmes story, but that makes a good hook for those who might not otherwise give the story a try.

Major category: 
historical