Edited by George Mann
Published by Titan Books
BBC’s Sherlock, CBS’s Elementary, the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes films – the enduring appeal of one of the most famous fictional characters has never been more evident. You simply cannot have too many Sherlock Holmes stories. This anthology continues this tradition in fine form: all twelve stories are written in the style and idiom of Conan Doyle at the time of the original stories (for example there is a use of a ‘Chinaman’ in one of the tales that is a little out of place to the modern reader), so you feel like you’re reading some undiscovered originals.
The Adventure of the Professor’s Bequest by Philip Purser-Hallard involves letters left by Professor Moriarty after his death to his brother-in-law, which have gone missing and are believed to have explosive repercussions if they are seen by the public; Holmes and Watson are called in to locate the missing letters. The second story, The Curious Case of the Compromised Card-Index by Andrew Lane, which is set before the adventure at the Reichenbach Falls and after the adventure with Charles Augustus Milverton, involves the hardcopy version of Sherlock’s data, which hasn’t been stolen but there is the possibility that a copy exists somewhere …
Sherlock Holmes and the Popish Relic by Mark A Latham is suitably gothic, where an uncle goes missing, presumed dead, a haunted abbey, ghosts monks and rumours of a popish relic … The fourth story, The Adventure of the Decadent Headmaster by Nick Campbell, is about the disappearance of a boy from an excellent public school and the suicide of a teacher at the same school soon after, leading to Holmes and Watson investigating and coinciding with the fact that the story is set in 1899.
The fifth story, The Case of the Devil’s Door by James Goss, relies on the mystery of not knowing anything about 24 Leinster Gardens, London; as a Londoner, I knew the reveal already, but its use in the recent series of Sherlock suggests that it is not a mystery any longer. The Adventure of the Coin of the Realm, by William Patrick Maynard and Alexandra Martukovich, sees Holmes and Watson on a boat returning from America with a group of coin dealers, one of whom ends up dead in a classic locked-room mystery, with the ship as the locked room.
The seventh tale, The Strange Case of the Displaced Detective by Roy Gill, has a fake client vanish from the rooms of 221B Baker Street, which sends Watson out on a search that leads him to a dingy shop: Wells & Co., Retailers of Antiquity & Chronologists of Futurity. This leads Holmes into, basically, facing the idea of the Minority Report. The Girl Who Paid For Silence by Scott Handcock is about the brutal and notorious death of a little girl and the very unusual witness who comes to see Watson, not Holmes, with information about the murder.
The ninth tale, An Adventure In Three Courses by Guy Adams, see Holmes take Watson to a new dining establishment that serves only cold food, where they pass the time by analysing the other diners, which takes a turn for the dark … The tenth story, The Sleep Of Reason by Lou Anders, is narrated by Dr Avery F Wilson, of 177B Bleecker Street, about New York’s famous dandy consulting detective, S Quentin Carmichael, retelling the narrative from a pulseless Carmichael through the medium of Morse code by clacking his teeth together. He relates how he met William Aldebert, author and chronicler of the adventures of Joanna Carson, War Mistress of Mars (or Moosrab, as the Martians call it), and he helped to solve the murder of a Martian ambassador.
The Snowtorn Terror by Justin Richards is the eleventh tale, which starts with a man wanting Holmes to solve the death of his father, but a connection to a railway robbery at the same location means that Holmes gets to solve both crimes. The final story, A Betrayal Of Doubt by Philip Marsh, is narrated by Dr John Watson Jnr – his father has passed away and Holmes is in retirement in his cottage in Sussex; Inspector Bennet of Scotland Yard has called him out of retirement to investigate a locked-room murder with occult overtones (the body was covered in intricate symbols post-mortem). Although Holmes shows signs of old age and deterioration of his mental faculties, he shows that there is still plenty of mental acuity left …
I enjoyed this book. It was more traditional than I thought it would be; I thought it would trend more towards the likes of The Sleep of Reason – a mash-up between Holmes and Edgar Rice Burroughs (like my favourite mash-up, A Study In Emerald by Neil Gaiman, which mixes Conan Doyle with HP Lovecraft) – but it manages to be bring modern sensibilities and attitude to the stories. There are interesting ideas, intriguing twists on the Holmes/Watson plots, and good prose. I look forward to even more further encounters of Sherlock Holmes
Disclosure: this book was provided for review purposes.