Book Review – Two Hundred And Twenty-One Baker Streets : Edited by David Thomas Moore (Abaddon Books – 2014)

A book for fans of Sherlock Holmes, science-fiction and fantasy.  This collection consists of 14 tales of Holmes, Watson and other familiar characters in not-so-familiar settings or even bodies. 

It’s great fun and, unusually for short story collections, not one is a duffer.  All have their own appeal.

In A Scandal in Hobohemia by Jamie Wyman, Holmes is Sanford ‘Crash’ Haus, owner of a travelling circus.  Watson is black veteran soldier Jim Walker.  Members of the travelling show are being murdered and Jim Walker finds himself being drawn in by the weird genius of Haus. 

Black Alice by Kelly Hale sets Holmes in the 17th Century investigating accusations of withcraft.  There is a lovely piece of imagery in ths tale which sees Watson dreaming of dumplings.  At one stage, Holmes forthright and indelicate questioning leads to him retreating swiftly closely followed by a barrage of hurled crockery. 

In The Adventure of the Speckled Bandana, J.E. Cohen imagines Homes as a 1970’s New York consulting detective, investigating a bizarre crime on the West Coast.  The story is set in a waxworks and made me think of a Scooby-Doo cartoon, although there are no Scooby Snacks and the perpetrator is not just the janitor dressed up in a sheet. 

Emma Newman’s ‘A Woman’s Place’ puts the focus on Holmes’ landlady, Mrs Hudson, whose interest in Holmes’ pursuit of Moriarty may be caused by a little more than the wish to get a vicarious thrill.  Mrs Hudson certainly hides her light under a bushel. 

A Study in Scarborough by Guy Adams sees Holmes and Watson as a comedy double act.  The story is written from the perspective of a fan looking back on their careers with nostalgia.  Watson demonstrates the true feelings of the straightman.

Ian Edginton’s ‘The Small World of 221B’ is one of the more sci-fi stories and includes time-travel and Matrix like imagery.

One of my favourite stories was The Final Conjuration by  Adrian Tchaikovsky.  Holmes is still Holmes as we have always known him.  However, he is transported as a powerful demon into a world ruled by seven great wizards.  This is a great fantasy tale.  The wizard’s servant who summons Holmes is named Wu-Tsan. 

The Patchwork Killer by Kasey Lansdale is set in the future where Holmes can be cloned into existence when necessary.  It’s a very funny and includes lines like “The worlds has changed.  The technology has changed.  Holmes, however, is the same smug bastard as always.”

The final story is called Paralles and is by Jenni Hill.  This is a birilliant story in which Holmes and Watson are teenage girls Charlotte and Jane.  It’s written as fanc fiction about fan fiction and is extremely engaging.

it’s unusual for me not to skip over a story or two in such a collection but this very entertaining book kept me reading all the way through.  Recommended. 

Book Review : Moriarty – Anthony Horowitz (Orion 2014)

Anthony Horowitz’ previous Sherlock Holmes novel, The House of Silk, was a bona fide classic; an absolute corker of a story. I had never read any of the original Sherlock Holmes stories but was prompted to after reading The House of Silk. Dare I say that I didn’t find any of Arthur Conan-Doyle’s originals as gripping or as satisfying as Horowitz’ own interpretation.

Needles to say then that I was always going to read any follow up by Anthony Horowitz, but is it as good?

The story starts where Holmes and Moriarty meet their ends, at the Reichenbach Falls. Seemingly, we have a Holmes tale without Sherlock or Moriarty . Sherlock is missing. presumed dead, and Moriarty is lying dead on a slab at the mortuary. Instead we have Frederick Chase, senior investigator for Pinkerton’s detective agency and Athelney Jones of Scotland Yard. This is the same Athelney Jones who appeared in The Sign of the Four and is now an avowed disciple of Sherlock and his methods.

I do not read many detective or mystery novels and I freely admit that I’m rubbish at trying to guess ‘who did it’ or the twist in the tale. I did think that Detective Inspector Jones could be Sherlock himself. Certainly his methods and powers of deduction seem remarkably similar. Indeed his language seemed to ape that of Holmes, he even says ‘the game is very much afoot.’ This is just one of the areas in which I was wrongfooted by the novel.

Chase is ‘chasing’ American master criminal Clarence Devereux, but is interested in Moriarty as he believes that he may have clues to Devereux’s whereabouts on his person. A cryptic message found on Moriarty’s body puts Chase and Jones on the trail of Devereux.

There is quite a big ‘infodump’ right at the start of the book. I felt that this might not be necessary and that readers of a Conan-Doyle inspired novel might be trusted to work some things out themself.

The story is very readable and a page-turner but it does sometimes read as Holmes by numbers, a checklist of all the major features you would expect. I felt that parts of the story were overstretched to increase the tension. At one point Jones has deduced that a man may be religious. Chase is keen to know how but Jones promises to tell him that afternoon. Why? It’s like the announcement of the results in Britain’s Got Talent where they deliberately wait 20 seconds before speaking.

There is a massive twist in the tale near the end, which completely blindsided me. After reading the book with enjoyment but some reservations up to this point it did make we wonder whether I had completely underestimated the story. On reflection, I think the story reads as though the climax was planned with great skill and ingenuity but the unfolding of the plot was less important.

This is a good book, but after the stunning display that was The House of Silk, I was expecting something as impressive. This felt a bit rushed.