"this is just to say"
to start, there's no question about the problem with the beekeeper's apprentice. you can't write a book about sherlock holmes and insert your own character who marries sherlock. this is not only because you're not sir arthur conan doyle, but mostly because sherlock holmes is generally asexual and a flaming gay for watson. I don't want to do some sort of ridiculous analysis (à la my freddie x shaggy thesis), but there's a lot in the books AND the tv show that points to sherlock being fairly incapable of producing normal human emotions/having normal human interactions, and the only other people he's cared for are watson and irene adler (whom he does not actually love romantically, but respect as an intellectual equal).
I much prefer my holmes a bitter old man who was only ever able to repress his unrequited love for a married man and did cocaine when he got bored to holmes: cradle robber.
the other series I've been reading stars a police detective named kate martinelli who happens to be a lesbian (I only think this is worth mentioning because a good portion of the books is devoted to her relationship/paraplegic lover). the premise of each mystery she investigates is pretty interesting, and the first book had some fun sleuthing. the second book was kind of a downgrade (although it was rated higher on amazon). the problem is that each mystery becomes focused on one character who is neither the victim nor the perpetrator. the reader is told that this person is astonishingly beautiful/physically compelling and that everyone in the vicinity feels awed by their presence - lots of focus on what they can convey with their eyes, how much everyone nearby loves them, how they're way too amazing for this world and all of us normal people. that's cool, I guess, in theory, but the characters don't actually come across like that! I'm just being told, over and over for two hundred pages, that I should be totally wowed by her ~chilling gaze~ or his ~ability to quote things wisely~
for example, if you're this "fool" character, in a theological serious business sense, I'm not wowed by your shakespeare and bible quotations. yippee skip, what a connoisseur of High Literature! why can't you say something about the plums that were delicious, so sweet and so cold? if we're quoting literature, william carlos williams is EXCELLENT for wisdom delivered in a really esoteric, profound way. I mean, I'm being told again and again that this guy is a secret academic and I'm supposed to be a totally astounded and, idk, intimidated by an academic paper that uses the word "synthesis," but all he can really deliver is the soggy remnants of my eleventh grade english class.
it's like she can't write the character subtly, so when I'm reading I actually understand what makes this old guy so compelling or this artist so strikingly influential on the people around her (someone actually delivers a monologue for two pages about how special she is and the crazy effect she has on other people). the side characters come across as caricatures as well, like the girl who's 11 and speaks in the most obnoxiously pretentious manner conceivable because she's "precocious." (for the record, I hate "precocious" kids and I think "quirky" is the cutesy way of saying trying too hard.)
I like the attention to detail (casually mentioning all of the other cases the detectives are working on and making it seem like they're busy working on cases between books) and the fact that research was obviously done for both books (so far, into art history and philology/theology) and I acknowledge that a general audience is gonna be like, whoa artemisia gentileschi? who? so probably most people will read the books, feel like they've learned something AND seen a mystery tied up neatly, which is pretty satisfying.
(also for the record: when things are successful with this "general" audience of ignorant people for whom the 4th grade reading level of most national newspapers is appropriate, the "twilight" series for example, I get totally irate and way harsh with my criticism.)
I've always been worried that I won't be able to write my senior thesis or whatever you're supposed to write when you're graduating from college/graduate school because there's no way I could write 80 pages on one topic. apparently I should get a degree in bitching about books people like and analyzing closeted fictional characters.