Justice Gets A New Look in Claire O’Dell’s ‘The Hound of Justice’ [REVIEW]

Dr. Janet Watson

Dr. Watson has a new look in Claire O’Dell’s new take on the classic series. (Photo by Stéphanie Vaudry, Flickr)

America is at war with itself. Racial tensions are higher than ever. And the longtime sidekick to one of fiction’s greatest sleuths is now the female protagonist in Claire O’Dell’s futuristic re-imagining of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s brilliant Sherlock Holmes stories. Except in The Hound of Justice, that legendary series has been turned on its head. 


Harper Voyager

Since Doyle’s original take on Sherlock, countless authors and directors have taken liberties with Holmes and Watson. So what is different about this incarnation? For starters, their genders and races have been changed. Watson is now Janet, Holmes is now Sara, and Mycroft is now Micha… and all three of them are black. But the biggest difference here is that Sara now takes a backseat to physician Janet, even if Sara is the mastermind of the outfit.

This foray into the story, however, delivers Watson’s background like never before (she’s an injured war veteran and surgeon who suffers from PTSD and has a prosthetic arm), something that has been lacking in other prior narratives. Still, the duo’s friendship remains, and is perhaps stronger than ever, even though this Watson is not one to sit around reminiscing about Holmes’s accomplishments. What readers should also note here is that although this series does have elements of mystery to it, it primarily serves as a vehicle into the uncharted territory of futuristic dystopian sci-fi thriller, something I can’t recall having seen before with these characters.

Now in this second volume of the series, The Hound of Justice, Watson is working at Georgetown University Hospital while she learns how to utilize her new high tech arm so she can get back to work as a surgeon. In the meantime, Holmes is on leave following their rogue adventure which took place in the first installment, A Study in Honor. But neither character is happy with the status quo, and that won’t improve with all the developments to come.

With a nation divided in the midst of the second Civil War, the political climate is shockingly polarized and an extremist faction called the Brotherhood of Redemption wants to take out the newly elected president. Although they fail in their assassination attempt, hundreds are injured and fifty are killed, which leads Holmes to start an investigation into the Brotherhood itself.

At this point, Sara goes MIA for a big chunk of the novel, which leaves us to examine how Watson is learning to navigate life and career, deals with her PTSD and limitations as an amputee, and even takes chances in the romance department. Thus Watson becomes a far more well-rounded character than ever before, which we enjoy exploring while Holmes is away.

Finally, when Micha contacts Watson, it’s to tell her that Holmes needs a surgeon and soon the action explodes as the three women are reunited and cross into the deep South in an effort to stop the Brotherhood’s next scheme and bring their nemesis to justice for all the vile things she’s done in the name of the New Civil War.

As I’ve said, if you’re a Sherlock Holmes purist, you’re in for a bit of a culture shock. The Janet Watson Chronicles is so different, it almost feels like Sherlock meets Shaft meets Divergent meets The Color Purple. That is a lot of territory to cover and as such, there is a lot that is dramatically changed. So many themes are tackled here it is somewhat difficult to know where to begin, although the issues of gender and race are most readily identifiable.

In some ways it feels like O’Dell wants to see how vastly different she can make the Sherlock story and yet hold true to its essence, a feat which she surprisingly pulls off, despite the fact that O’Dell is a white woman writing about racial inequality. Even if she doesn’t tackle the topic perfectly, it is admirable that she has the guts to try at all. But perhaps her zeal for the topic is one reason why her version of the future doesn’t seem that out of reach. Another is that in light of today’s political climate, the crazy world O’Dell has concocted doesn’t really seem all that implausible. In fact, this story could easily appear in the next news cycle if we’re not careful. And that my friends, may be the scariest part of all.

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Claire O'Dell

Claire O’Dell
(Photo by Rob Bernobich)


Claire O’Dell is the author of dozens of short stories and a number of science fiction/fantasy novels, including the sci-fi mystery series, The Janet Watson Chronicles, and the epic fantasy series, River of Souls. Her first novel, Passion Play, won the 2010 RT Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best Epic Fantasy and was long-listed for the James Tiptree Award. Additionally, her novel, A Study in Honor, won the Lambda Literary Award in 2019.

Claire grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC, in the years of the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal. She attended high school just a few miles from the house where Mary Surratt once lived and where John Wilkes Booth for Lincoln to die. All this might explain why she spent so much time in the history and political science departments at college where she earned an undergraduate degree in German and studied abroad for a year at Heidelberg Universität.

In addition to fiction, she has a 30-plus year career in software development, with projects ranging from applied cryptography to custom web applications. She currently lives in Manchester, Connecticut, with her family and two idiosyncratic cats.

To find out more about Claire, visit her home on the Web at ClaireODell.com, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.

By Claire O’Dell
352 pp. Harper Voyager. $17.99

TLC Book Tours Tour HostPurchase The Hound of Justice at one of these fine online retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, HarperCollins, IndieBound, and Powell’s.

The Hound of Justice is brought to you in association with TLC Book Tours.


About J.R. Wallace
J.R. Wallace is a freelance writer and blogger who enjoys cooking, reading, travel and fitness. He lives in Ohio with his family, two cats and a ferret named Igor.

6 Responses to Justice Gets A New Look in Claire O’Dell’s ‘The Hound of Justice’ [REVIEW]

  1. trish says:

    I’m a huge Sherlock Holmes fan, though I don’t know if I’m a purist or not. I’ve found that I often don’t know until I delve into something like The Hound of Justice.

    Thank you so much for being on the tour!

  2. Pingback: Claire O'Dell, author of The Hound of Justice, on tour July/August 2019 | TLC Book Tours

  3. Anthony Castellano says:

    // Sherlock meets Shaft meets Divergent meets The Color Purple

    Nice review. Only one thing that bothered me. How is an SF/Political Thriller anything like Divergent and YA fantasy? Or the other two comps?

    • Jathan Fink says:

      I think he meant Sherlock equaled the modernization of the classic story; Shaft equaled characters have a ‘take no prisoners’ attitude; Divergent equaled dystopian storyline; and The Color Purple meant black cast with leading female characters pushing back against male dominant society.

      • Anthony Castellano says:

        No offense, but the comparisons are tone deaf at best, and racist at worst. It sounds as though the reviewer picked any old movie and book that featured black people, not ones that actually matched the theme and tone of this book. Perhaps your reviewer needs to read more widely. I’d suggest Octavia Butler, N.K. Jemisin, and Nnedi Okorafor for a start.

  4. Sara Strand says:

    Thank you for being on this tour! I’m so glad you enjoyed this one. Sara @ TLC Book Tours

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