I may have mentioned before that I quite adore all things Sherlock, from books to movies to old computer games that I remember my dad playing when I was a kid. He may be a prat, but he’s just so smart and therefore so cool to me.
I’ve never really gotten into non-Doyle Sherlock books, for whatever reason, and even though I’ll watch any of the film and television adaptations I can get my hands on. Maybe I just have lower expectations for films (or maybe the new BBC version is the most amazing thing ever)? Whatever, the point is that I can’t even remember reading any non-Doyle Holmes before falling in love with “A Study in Emerald” during the Fragile Things readalong last fall. So good, and I don’t even know Lovecraft! So when I saw this collection of stories inspired by Sherlock and Doyle, and also saw that it had a second Neil Gaiman Holmes story in it, I was like, yoink!
And then I remembered what I dislike so much about short story collections, which is that they always contain super awesome fantastic stories and also stories where I think to myself and to others, someone got paid to write this crap?
There is such a piece of crap early on in the book that I read, and stared at, and wondered if maybe I shouldn’t keep reading if all the stories were going to be like that, and then I remembered I was reading it on an airplane and I might as well keep going. Thank goodness for airplanes.
I’m not going to call out the stories I hated, because there were plenty that were awesome and thus deserve my words more. In order of appearance:
“You’d Better Go in Disguise”, by Alan Bradley
Of course the creator of Flavia de Luce is going to get a place on this list. It’s practically fate. Bradley presents the opening story of the collection and it gets quite to the heart of the matter — we meet a mysterious man who meets a mysterious man and they get to profiling people in the park for fun and perhaps profit, and the reader wonders whether one of these men might be Holmes, of course, and what the point of this conversation might be, and it is all very intriguing and delightful.
“The Startling Events in the Electrified City”, by Tom Perry
This might be my favorite of all of these stories, as it recasts the assassination of President McKinley as a case for our favorite detectives, one that was put away in a box for many years until the characters involved were long gone. I don’t know terribly much about McKinley’s assassination outside of what I learned from Sarah Vowell, but the interesting circumstances presented by the story — the World’s Fair, other assassination attempts, weird Italians — have me searching the internet for more info.
“The Mysterious Case of the Unwritten Short Story”, by Colin Cotterill
I was sure this was going to be one of the stories I would hate when I started reading it. It’s in a pseudo-graphic-novel style and is super meta, with the author explaining how he came to write this story (and confusing Laurie King with Larry King) and then telling the story he is trying to write but interrupting with complaints about how much effort it takes to appease the nitpickers in the audience and it all seems so whatever except then he does actually finish the story he’s writing and it’s kind of adorable and amusing. Cotterill wins this time.
“The Last of Sheila-Locke Holmes”, by Laura Lippman
This is a sweet and sad story that I think everyone can relate to. It starts off all happy-like with our hero Sheila being a detective like Holmes or Harriet the Spy (but definitely not Nancy Drew, who’s totally stuck up), and it’s all fun and games until Sheila uncovers a secret that she doesn’t like or really understand.
“The Adventure of the Concert Pianist”, by Margaret Moran
Look, I just really like Mrs. Hudson, who narrates the heck out of this story, in which she and Dr. Watson team up during Holmes’s dead period to solve a case of poisoning. I would like this kind of story to show up in the next season of Sherlock, if they haven’t already written all those episodes.
Recommendation: Definitely check out at least a few of the stories, if you like Sherlock and things based on Sherlock.