Sunday, 25 December 2011

I won't be reviewing every single story in this volume the way I did in the last anthology I reviewed, simply because there are twenty-eight stories in here and I could end up with a review longer than the book itself. I will say however that there isn't a bad story in the bunch, which is an achievement for any anthology, let alone one as well-filled as this one is.

This is the list of stories included in the anthology, some of which have been published elsewhere either before or since their inclusion.

The Doctor’s Case — Stephen King
The Horror of the Many Faces — Tim Lebbon
The Case of the Bloodless Sock — Anne Perry
The Adventure of the Other Detective — Bradley H. Sinor
A Scandal in Montreal — Edward Hoch
The Adventure of the Field Theorems — Vonda N. McIntyre
The Adventure of the Death-Fetch — Darrell Schweitzer
The Shocking Affair of the Dutch Steamship Friesland — Mary Robinette Kowal
The Adventure of the Mummy’s Curse — H. Paul Jeffers
The Things That Shall Come Upon Them — Barbara Roden
Murder to Music — Anthony Burgess
The Adventure of the Inertial Adjustor — Stephen Baxter
Mrs Hudson’s Case  —  Laurie  R.  King
The Singular Habits of Wasps — Geoffrey Landis
The Affair of the Forty-Sixth Birthday — Amy Myers
The Specter of Tullyfane Abbey — Peter Tremayne
The Vale of the White Horse — Sharyn McCrumb
The Adventure of the Dorset Street Lodger — Michael Moorcock
The Adventure of the Lost World — Dominic Green
The Adventure of the Antiquarian’s Niece — Barbara Hambly
Dynamics of a Hanging — Tony Pi
Merridew of Abominable Memory — Chris Roberson
Commonplaces — Naomi Novik
The Adventure of the Pirates of Devil’s Cape — Rob Rogers
The Adventure of the Green Skull — Mark Valentine
The  Human  Mystery  —  Tanith  Lee
A Study in Emerald — Neil Gaiman
You See But You Do Not Observe — Robert J. Sawyer

The list of authors itself is impressive and reads like a who's who of fantasy and science fiction with a scattering of more traditional mystery authors thrown in.

The theme of the anthology is the cases of Sherlock Holmes which include or appear to include the supernatural in some manner. This means that some of them have everyday explanations that Sherlock Holmes can discover, disproving the supernatural element, whereas others really do involve otherworldly explanations.

Several of the authors have taken advantage of the fact that Holmes' creator was a well-known devotee of the late Victorian craze for the paranormal and made him a character who appears or at the very least is referred to in many of the stories, quite often with Holmes disparaging Conan Doyle's views.

I'm not sure I can pick a favourite story from this collection as there were so many gems in it. A Study in Emerald is a work of genius, combining the world of Sherlock Holmes with Lovecraft's Cthulu, a theme revisited in two of the other entries - The Horror of the Other Faces and The Adventure of the Antiquarian's Niece. I had read Gaiman's story before I even picked up this book though so I may be a little biased about it's quality. I was looking forward to it even as I enjoyed the other stories in the collection.

The Case of the Bloodless Sock featured a very cleverly thought out case with Sherlock demonstrating his abilities to the full as he brought it to a happy conclusion, whereas The Doctor's Case lets Doctor Watson shine for once as he is struck by inspiration and solves the crime before either Holmes or Lestrade. It also developed the relationship between Lestrade and Holmes a little by having the Inspector teasing the Great Detective a little and I felt it managed to show a lot of characterisation in very little space. A real gem.

The Adventures of the Lost World introduces dinosaurs to the Holmesian milieu, while The Adventure of the Inertial Adjuster involves the idea of space travel and The Human Mystery takes us into the future and then back into Holmes' own time ending in a heartbreaking conclusion for our heroes.

Murder to Music and The Shocking Affair of the Dutch Steamship Friesland both involve international politics and then we're plunged back into the ordinary, if just as shocking, world of domestic strife with The Adventure of the Mummy's Curse and Mrs' Hudson's Case, this latter one being the weakest in the collection although that may be due to my lack of familiarity with the author's long-running series and in particular with it's heroine, Mary Russell or possibly my disappointment at Holmes' very minor part in the story.

And I haven't even mentioned Commonplaces, Naomi Novik's thought provoking entry or the rather more terrifying The Singular Habits of Wasps or the extremely entertaining The Adventure of the Pirates of Devil's Cape or the absolutely fantastic village wisewoman with whom Holmes matches wits in The Vale of the White Horse. 

The only common denominator in the collection is Holmes himself so there's definitely something for everyone here and yet it doesn't feel like a mismatched collection. The editor has done a brilliant job of putting it together and the notes at the beginning of each story are well worth reading rather than skipping over them to get to the 'good stuff', something I admit I am occasionally guilty of.

I could probably go on about every story I read if I wanted to keep you here for hours but instead I'll simply recommend you buy the book and read it for yourself. I just wish that as long as it was, it had been twice as long!

VERDICT - 5 out of 5. An absolute treat for Holmes lovers and not to be missed.

No comments:

Post a Comment