A collection of short stories which- you guessed it- is told from the viewpoint of an associate of the greatest detective himself. I will confess that I love the Sherlock and I am currently half way through Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s complete collection – I read a couple of stories every now and then and afterwards binge-watch some of the film adaptations.
The characters that the authors have characters have chosen in this anthology range from the ever popular Mycroft and Irene Adler to some of the lesser known characters such as Billy, Sherlock’s page, and a gossip journalist named Langdale Pike who is never seen in the original stories, only mentioned.
The collection begins with Inspector Stanley Michael Hopkins and describes through a number of letters and journal entries his first encounter with Sherlock and Watson. A most peculiar case in which a severed arm is found in a Chinese engraved box which they deduce to belong to a young woman. Unfortunately Stanley’s first case remains unsolved as what they discover at the young woman’s abode causes the Inspector and consulting detective to change their course of action.
Most of the stories are written in a similar way relying on newspaper clippings, journal entries and memoir to convey their story. While this did the job it became very repetitive as a form of narrative with not much except character to differentiate between stories.
I must applaud Jeffery Thomas on his addition of The Vanishing Snake which directly follows Conan Doyle’s Tale The Adventure of the Speckled Band – a tale which I remember reading fondly. Thomas tries and succeeds in writing in Conan Doyle’s style. As told by Helen Stoner after the death of her stepfather it recounts her tale to Sherlock of her own investigations after returning to the manor-house in which he died. The story itself is not wholly plausible but the style it is written in deserves credit. I truly felt like I was reading an original story something which I didn’t feel when reading the other authors. And of course I shouldn’t expect to feel like I am reading an original story; these are all different authors writing about different characters all of which have their own individual voice and the individual voice that stood out the most was Mycroft’s.
A popular character next to Irene and Lestrade, Simon Bucher-Jones has perfectly captured the government official’s voice in my favourite story within the collection. It is a one sided conversation between Mycroft (older brother of Sherlock Holmes) and Colonel James Moriarty, the brother of Professor Moriarty himself. I loved the ease in which the words seemed to flow as he recounted a case of Sherlock’s and showed just how much Mycroft is involved or following Sherlock’s life. The small quips and retorts to unknown questions and statements give just enough character to the Colonel that as a reader I could begin to picture his stance.
I couldn’t do a review without looking at Irene Adler’s story. Irene Adler’s story surprised me which I shouldn’t have been surprised about considering all we know about the character, which isn’t actually a lot. There isn’t much in the way of confirmed details but, Cavan Scott in his aptly named short Nor Hell a Fury provides us with something tangible that we can read through. Irene Adler is not one of my favourite characters but she comes across as wholly herself and in control of the situation and even manages to trick Sherlock (or so we are led to believe).
I won’t go into every story but I will conclude with Lestrade’s narrative, Peeler. Even though I loved my Mycroft’s narrative more I think this was the most fitting story to conclude the collection. In it, we follow Lestrade as he tries to solve the case of a criminal that peels the faces off of its victims. Sherlock appears more within this narrative as we run through the streets of London with him, Watson and Lestrade as they try to solve the case. Many people have a very good idea of Lestrade, what he looks like, how competent he is but within this narrative we are finally able to see how he feels about Sherlock and whether he is a help or a hindrance. Of course we all know Sherlock is a help and hindrance but, being able to see Lestrade’s annoyance and awe (?) for the detective was a fun read and a fitting end for the anthology.
In essence all of the stories had their own merits, from how they have used some of Sherlock’s lessons to solve problems in their own lives or how in the interference of Sherlock has damaged their lives beyond repair. All of the stories were a fitting tribute to perhaps unknown characters and finally gave them the voice that we didn’t even know we needed.