A Study in Sherlock by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger, eds. (2011): 3/5 stars

I love any sort of inspired-by-Sherlock Holmes story. Whether it’s an adaptation like the Granada series that stays very true to the book, something more swashbuckling (and “bromantic”) like Guy Ritchie’s films, a modern adaptation like the BBC’s “Sherlock“, or something more subtly connected like “House.” One of my favourite films as a kid was The Great Mouse Detective. I’ve also read several books that were inspired by or written about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective so when I saw this new anthology of Sherlock Holmes short stories by 15 different authors, I definitely wanted to check it out.

Now, apparently the editor of this story collection writes a book series in which a fifteen-year-old girl impresses Sherlock Holmes’s so much that she becomes his protégé, and some years later they get married. That’s… okay, not something I’m interested in, and I’m pretty sure I could read that same thing in a middle schooler’s fanfiction. But credentials of the editor aside, let’s talk about the short stories themselves, which range from excellent to awful.

I’ll start with the ones I liked: my favourite was probably “The Case of the Purloined Paget” by Phillip and Jerry Margolin. While several of the stories focus on non-Holmes characters performing Sherlock Holmes-esque detective work, this one was the best at connecting their work with the spirit of the Sherlock Holmes stories. I also loved Neil Gaiman’s “The Case of Death and Honey,” maybe even more than his previous Holmes-story (the Lovecraft mashup “A Study in Emerald.”) Also, “The Adventure of the Concert Pianist” by Margaret Maron, in which Watson and Mrs. Hudson solve a case just before “The Adventure of the Empty House,” and “The Case that Holmes Lost,” which connects author and character into an interesting mystery with a surprising conclusion.

On the other hand, some of the stories were downright terrible. One seemed to demonstrate less of the author’s writing skills and more of his ability to use IMDB; a commentary on all of the actors who have played Holmes over the years is neither a mystery nor a story. Additionally, there were several stories that seemed to have no relation to Holmes at all beyond a vague “this is deduction” type of plot resolution, and one or two of the stories that do feature Holmes don’t really seem to relate to him as a character but simply as a name (the story about Holmes saving President McKinley from assassination is an interesting one, but doesn’t feature any of the traits for which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective is famous).

As a whole, I would say that this collection is worth checking out for any die-hard Sherlockian, but don’t be afraid to skim or skip through any story that rubs you the wrong way (and definitely don’t bother to read the bizarre twitter-RP transcript between one of the editors and the aforementioned Holmes-wife-Mary-Sue-whatever). I would probably rate this lower than three stars overall, but I’m marking it up slightly for the stories I liked, because I did love them a lot.

Holmesians/Sherlockians, what are your favourite Holmes pastiches?


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