Book Review: More Sherlock Holmes Pastiches
New entries in the Sherlock Holmes saga have become a subgenre in themselves in crime fiction, and this review will cover some interesting new releases.
Liese Sherwood-Fabre has released three books in a series of the early years of Sherlock Holmes. In her works, Sherlock is still in his teens, and is being mentored by his mother, who is the central detective in this series. Mycroft is in early adulthood and often comes across as rather stubborn and sulky, and the father of the family is largely disinterested in his wife and children’s investigations. The series begins with The Adventure of the Murdered Midwife, followed by The Adventure of the Murdered Gypsy, with The Adventure of the Deceased Scholar being the third entry. Deceased Scholar is the most memorable of the series for me, with an acquaintance of Mycroft meeting a mysterious demise, and in her zeal to investigate, Mrs. Holmes is always a hair’s breath away from causing a scandal. This series should really be called “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Mother” rather than “The Early Case Files of Sherlock Holmes”– Mrs. Holmes is falsely accused of murder in the first book, and she’s the driving force of the sleuthing.
Sherlockian legends Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger have edited another anthology titled In League with Sherlock Holmes, a collection of stories “inspired” by the Canon. Only a few are actual pastiches, and others simply take a theme and develop the story in unconventional directions that only reference Holmes or some aspect of his universe. The stories are a mixed bag. A couple are great, most are pretty good, a couple are average, and one that I won’t name is quite poor. Some of the best ones include the Edgar-nominated “The Twenty-Five-Year Engagement,” by James W. Ziskin, a pastiche with a nice, twisty mystery. Another favorite is Martin Edwards’ “The Observance of Trifles,” which investigates a crime through a contemporary blog. “Dying is Easy,” by Joe Hill and Marin Simmonds, is a graphic short story set in the 1990’s, with a fun riff on a classic Holmesian clue. “The Strange Juju Affair at the Gacy Mansion” by Kwei Quartey is a clever locked-room mystery set in West Africa. When I first started Brad Parks’ “A Scandal on the Jersey Shore,” where the descendant of Irene Adler solves a murder set at the titular area, featuring characters straight out of the “reality” show, I expected to hate it, but quickly discovered I was wrong, and that it was a surprisingly fun read with some good character sketches. These aren’t all of the best stories, but the aforementioned tales are my favorites.
In the interests of full disclosure, I need to point out my friendship with David Marcum and my business relationship with MX Publishing. Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed Marcum’s Sherlock Holmes and the Eye of Heka. While the central mystery centers around a priceless jewel connected to a rare artifact, the real interest and emotional heft of this story comes from Dr. Watson’s grief. Like many Sherlockians, Marcum has noted that inconsistencies in the story indicate that Watson was married before Mary Morstan. And so, in The Eye of Heka, Watson is grieving the untimely death of his first wife, and it affects all aspects of his life, including his friendship with Holmes. It’s frequently poignant and always realistic. The mystery itself is well-plotted with some clever clues, but the book’s heart comes from the friendship between Holmes and Watson, and the new explorations into Watson’s mind and heart make The Eye of Heka a highly recommended read.
The Adventure of the Murdered Midwife (Book 1), The Adventure of the Murdered Gypsy (Book 2), The Adventure of the Deceased Scholar (Book 3)
By Liese Sherwood-Fabre
Little Elm Press
In League With Sherlock Holmes: Stories Inspired by the Sherlock Holmes Canon
Edited by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger
Sherlock Holmes and the Eye of Heka
By David Marcum