2019’s The Hound of Justice is the second volume in Claire O’Dell’s Janet Watson Chronicles.
Doctor Janet Watson has a new prosthetic arm and a new position at Georgetown University Hospital. The new arm is a vast improvement over the previous arm, but Janet is finding it hard to master. She needs to be capable of fine, disciplined movements if she is to return to being a surgeon.
America has a new President, Donovan, a Democratic Progressive. Like her new arm, the new President isn’t all Janet could wish him to be, but he is better than the alternative (reactionary Jeb Foley). Years into its second civil war, even a second-rate President and the hope of a disappointing peace is an improvement, at least from the perspective of the sane people of America.
Richard Speiker’s Brotherhood of Redemption is threatened by the prospect of peace. Inauguration day is marred by a terrorist bomb attack that fails to kill its intended target thanks to what appears to be simple incompetence.
Janet returns home to Apartment 2B at 2809 Q Street NW and finds her roommate, the spookily intelligent and dubiously socialized Sara Holmes, gone. The evidence suggests Holmes was summoned away in the middle of dinner. Sara left no note, so all Janet can do is speculate.
Janet’s new, comfortable life begins to fall apart.
Janet’s crushee is distancing herself; she wants Janet to be more open — which Janet cannot be, because so much of her life is classified.
Patients at the hospital begin to die at ominous rates. Is this systematic incompetence? Could Janet be contributing to the problem in any way?
Janet receives an eviction notice. Wherever Sara is, her shadowy masters do not expect her back soon, which means that Janet loses access to Sara’s luxurious apartment.
A mysterious message draws Janet back into Sara’s life. Sara’s mission requires a doctor. Janet is Sara’s doctor of choice. Using a family crisis as the pretext, Janet takes a leave of absence, then starts off on a long journey she hopes will end with a reunion.
Sara has found choice prey, none other than A Study in Honor’s antagonist, Nadine Adler. Adler fled before she could face justice. Sara knows where to find her. All Sara and Janet need to is infiltrate a secure facility in the heart of the New Confederacy. A nation where Janet’s very skin marks her as suspect.…
The United States of America during the Second (American) Civil War is not a kind place for those with darker skin. The cops are more likely to side with New Confederacy infiltrators than with a loyal American, if that American is black. The president, Donovan, is just an old white guy whose main virtue is being slightly preferable to the other old white guy. An actual Democratic Progressive was a step too far for the Democratic Progressive Party. It’s possible, just possible, that this is a book greatly shaped by the era in which it was written.
But it could be worse. The Federal States border the New Confederacy, which combines outspoken white supremacy with high technology. Easier to track second-class citizens (or so the rulers think). Their second-class citizens are not idiots and they have learned how to live with and even avoid surveillance.
I still don’t care for the character of Sara Holmes, who draws on the manipulative, borderline sociopathic versions of Holmes. This is a Holmes who will casually show up mid-date to throw a spanner into Janet’s love life because Sara is very possessive (even if Janet and Sara are not currently dating). This is also a Holmes who is willing to put all of Janet’s blood-relatives at risk in order to insert Janet into darkest Oklahoma.
A significant difference between Sherlock and Sara: Sherlock often carried out his investigations in full view of Watson. Sara appears to prefer working in the shadows, only drawing Janet in when events are well along. In this case, that may be a homage to The Hound of the Baskervilles , in which Holmes’ activities are often off-stage.
There is a lot more build up (the troubles at the hospital, romantic problems, family crisis, and housing issues) than action in this novel. Janet does not cross the border until the last half of the book. On the plus side, this lets the author paint a more detailed picture of the Federal States in the late 2020s … but the book is still slow. However, once Janet is across the border, the plot kicks into high gear.
An engaging read, if not as good as I wanted it to be.