A gentle romantic novel with a hint of Sherlock Holmes, The Continuity Girl by Patrick Kincaid is a must-have addition to any Holmesian collection. And if you have no interest in Holmes and no knowledge of him beyond the fact that he wore a silly hat and hung around with a doctor, it’s no barrier to enjoying this heart-warming tale of love, friendship and Loch Ness Monster hunting.
Following two separate stories set 45 years apart, The Continuity Girl starts in 1969 when a young marine biologist’s fastidious research into Nessie is interrupted by the arrival of Hollywood director Billy Wilder and his film crew, who descend on the loch to film the now much-loved movie, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. The quiet and serious young man’s irritation is tempered by a growing romance with the film’s spirited and beautiful continuity supervisor, April Bloom.
Skip to 2014, film studies lecturer Gemma MacDonald is delighted when a lost print of The Private Life is found. It’s her all-time favourite film and she decides to stage a special screening at the Inverness Film Festival, including an interview with an original member of the crew – none other than April Bloom herself (now Korzeniowski.) As old friends reunite, and memories abound, the story winds to a satisfying, heart-warming conclusion.
Full of facts about the film, (a favourite of Mark Gatiss and now seen as an iconic interpretation of Holmes on screen) and littered with canon references, there is much to love for the Holmes fan. It’s a refreshing and highly original addition to an already very crowded marketplace.
Patrick is a superbly visual writer, painting wonderful pictures with words. Sentences effortlessly turn into images in your head – be it a gorgeous Scottish loch or the timeless beauty of a mature woman. Complex personal longings, the agony and impact of lost opportunities and love unfulfilled are adeptly deployed in gentle, subtle waves of clever similes and poignant descriptions. And then there’s the humour, such a tricky thing to get right in a novel. Here, the humour stays true to the characters, it’s subtle and observational.
The Continuity Girl reads so easily, you have complete confidence in the writer throughout. You happily go wherever he takes you, you drift contently into the world he has created and enjoy the time you spend with this diverse and authentic bunch of characters. Patrick has worked very hard to achieve this affect, but writes so effortlessly that you’d think he scribbled out the manuscript while having a cup of tea and a nice biscuit one rainy afternoon – which is in fact the perfect way to read this novel; curled up with a cuppa as Patrick’s words lull you gently away into the wilds of Scotland.