By Stacey Doud
I recently had the pleasure of listening to Texas author Sherry Thomas at the Irving South Public Library. Thomas is the author of the “Lady Sherlock” books. The library has hosted an “Adult Winter Reading Challenge” every year for the past three years. This year’s theme is “Sherlocked.” Participants are required to read five books of his or her choice within the theme and log them online. Upon completing the task, readers will win a limited-edition puzzle book, a Sherlock Holmes keychain and a free book.
Thomas’s “Lady Sherlock” book series puts a new spin on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s popular Sherlock Holmes character from the 1800s. Thomas imagined Sherlock as a woman named Charlotte Holmes and she compares and contrasts Charlotte’s behavior, personality and methods with the well-established Sherlock character.
Senior Librarian Karen Wong explained that, “This year, we wanted to focus on the mystery genre, but there are just so many great mysteries, so what book to pick? Eventually we realized that we should go with the most famous detective of all-time, Sherlock Holmes.”
Wong was tasked with finding an author that has altered the Holmes character in some way. “My first thought was Sherry Thomas,” Wong said. “I had just read her first book in the ‘Lady Sherlock’ series and enjoyed it so much.”
Sherry Thomas was born in China and left the country when she was 13 years old, when her family immigrated to Louisiana. She credits American romance novels as her English tutor, as Chinese was her original language. She is a graduate of Louisiana State University (LSU) and the University of Texas (UT).
With Bachelors and Masters degrees in accounting, life eventually led Thomas in a different direction. When asked where the idea of Lady Sherlock came from, Thomas said, “I had been a fan of Sherlock Holmes for my entire life. I read ‘The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ in Chinese. I also watched the TV show in China in the mid-80s.
“Around the same time, I discovered ‘The Seven-Per-Cent Solution: Being a Reprint from the Reminiscences of John H. Watson, M.D. (The Journals of John H. Watson, M.D.).'”
This book was written by Nicholas Meyer and was published in 1993. It looked at events from the perspective of Holmes’ sidekick, Dr. Watson, and includes Dr. Sigmund Freud as Holmes’s counterpart, with Watson chronicling their adventures.
“That showed me that a lot of other people have been writing Sherlock Holmes stuff. Right around the time I went to UT, I read ‘The Beekeeper’s Apprentice,’ which is the first book in a series called ‘Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes’, [which was written by Laurie King and published in 1994]. I loved that book so much that I would listen to audio cassettes of the book series,” said Thomas.
“It wasn’t until the new BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation] show with Benedict Cumberbatch came out that I thought, ‘I wonder what else people could do with Sherlock Holmes to bring him into the 21st century?’” Thomas said. “It was about the same time that CBS came out with their show, ‘Elementary,’ in which Dr. Watson was now a woman. That made me think about what would happen if Sherlock was a woman?”
Thomas’s Charlotte Holmes mirrors Sherlock in some ways but is completely different in others. When asked if Charlotte might be Autistic, Thomas answered in the affirmative and said that the original Sherlock was most likely “on the spectrum” as well.
“Sherry Thomas has a wonderful way with words, and she’s very funny and down-to-earth. She kept me captivated with her fascinating comments, and I think everyone left the event as either new fans or even more devoted long-time fans of this charming writer,” Wong said.
Thomas has written books in a variety of genres and plans to write ten “Lady Sherlock” books. She is currently writing the fifth installment of the series.