In the Company of Sherlock Holmes: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon by Laurie R King and Leslie Klinger (editors)
|In the Company of Sherlock Holmes: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon by Laurie R King and Leslie Klinger (editors)|
|Category: Short Stories|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: The book that took the literary world into the courthouse – all the while intending to provide many more cases for us to read in return.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 368||Date: April 2015|
|Publisher: Titan Books|
|External links: Author's website|
Well, that's one way to get a heck of a lot of attention to your series of short story collections, for sure – get the estate of the author you're respecting to take you to court with the idea that the works cannot be published – the characters are so firmly established and entrenched, but established and entrenched as their property and therefore cannot be artistically reinterpreted, revived or otherwise returned to at all until full and final copyright statutes have expired. Never mind that the characters – one S Holmes and Dr JH Watson – hardly have parallels in how often they already have been mimicked. Never mind the fact that the estate of Conan Doyle was paid off in order for the first book to released. Still, the case was won and this sequel is in our hands. Is it worth all the legal documents? What is the important verdict, at the end of the reading day?
Well, the collection didn't get going for me for some time, and tailed off quite unfortunately at the end, but did peak more than once with some great writing and some fine, inventive work. Some works are too loose, and conversely others are too enamoured of giving a new spin on old stories they can become merely of use for the specialist. We start with one of those loose iterations, with Michael Connelly, and a glimpse of a great detective analysing a crime scene, and making much store by minute details – with almost as much frustration for us as Watson originally felt. Sara Paretsky mashes up Holmes and Watson, but not with the American franchise crime-solver you'd expect from her. The voice is not quite right, but it's definitely on the right track, although the rounding-up of the case in its solution is impossible to follow.
Then the ardent followers take over. Michael Sims revisits The Adventure of Silver Blaze, but through the horse's own narration. Andrew Grant takes us back to Baskerville, but with the story as was reinterpreted through a social media wall, which offers some jokey 'likes' from relevant local companies following the chatter, but doesn't endear us to the technique. It's up to Jeffery Deaver to imbue proceedings with technique – both detective nous and story-telling brilliance, about which I will try and not let any further details out. Certainly it's a virtuoso work.
Laura Caldwell gives us a strongly-written tale, one again where the link is tenuous – characters named after, and therefore taking on board some small piece of the spirit of, Conan Doyle's originals. Spirit brings us on to sheer highlight number two –Dunkirk by John Lescroart, which really does not belong in the canon by dint of being an out-and-out adventure story, and one set a lot later than the original works, but is still a great boy's-own action piece. It's the longest tale here, but that's no problem when the writing is so vivid, the character resolutely accurate, and the gung-ho idea so in keeping with so many other writers from Conan Doyle's era, as a later piece in this book will attest.
Much briefer are a graphic novel-styled slip of humour; Cornelia Funke with a revealing character piece regarding one of the Baker Street Irregulars (who knew the Germans could come up with Watson's voice as well as anyone else?; and Denise Hamilton. Her offering is going to be divisive, for if anything it reads as sci-fi, and quite dated sci-fi at that, for I cannot believe it is for one minute not an accurate, contemporary representation of the ideas it carries. The ending is a little obvious – not what could be said of the true Holmesian piece – but again, the name and brand is enough to get a lot of these stories on board, and on the whole, we can settle for that.
But that was about the last time the book peaked. Michael Dirda has a name-dropping legend of the gestation of all the original works, Harlan Ellison has his silly, surreal hat on (as so often, these days), Nancy Holder hits us with another revisited ACD, although one that's completely too meta, and there are two other entrants we can pass over. The fact the quality isn't successfully sustained I will put down to the brilliance of my favourites here, and not for the want of trying on many cases. This is a great summary of what the crime-writing mind can come up with given a loose brief, and while so many are enamoured of the originals, they happily take the task and run with it wherever they wish. You may prefer to follow some I didn't, but this volume shows diversity and cleverness and is once again just as much tribute as the echt pieces deserve.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
Further Encounters of Sherlock Holmes by George Mann (Editor) does not really have the capacity to disappoint the same audience. You might also enjoy My Dear Watson by Margaret Park Bridges.
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You can read more book reviews or buy In the Company of Sherlock Holmes: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon by Laurie R King and Leslie Klinger (editors) at Amazon.com.
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