The Book of Extraordinary New Sherlock Holmes Stories by Maxim Jakubowski was given a great review by Game Vortex, read the review here.
The Book of Extraordinary New Sherlock Holmes Stories: The Best New Original Stores of the Genre
|Maxim Jakubowski has edited several anthology books that point authors at specific genres and lets them loose. In his latest release, Jakubowski tasks the writers with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic sleuth, Sherlock Holmes. The Book of Extraordinary New Sherlock Holmes Stories: The Best New Original Stores of the Genre is a collection of 15 short stories focusing on Holmes and his chronicler, Dr. Watson, though several stories stray rather far from anything that might be considered canon, many attempt to wedge themselves into the established series of events. The anthology kicks off with Lavie Tidhar’s The Adventure of the Milford Silkworms. In this story, a client asks Holmes to investigate the strange events surrounding her manor. It seems that one of her friends, a botanist, has recently been injured, and another seems to have gone quite mad. To make matters worse, the local goats have gotten more aggressive than normal. So, Sherlock and Watson travel to the seaside location in order to figure out exactly what is going on and who is to blame. The Lancelot Connection by Matthew Booth tasks Sherlock with helping to track down not only a murderer, but a thief in possession of a lost Shakespearian manuscript. It seems that the recently found play was scheduled to be unveiled at a major event, but on the eve of that showing, not only does the manuscript disappear, but one of the few people with access to it is found dead near the play’s display case. Sherlock must tease out everyone’s motives and movements the night before in order to get a complete picture of what happened, if he is to solve the case. In the story Bloody Sunday, Bev Vincent plays with the idea that the events in Trafalgar Square on November 13, 1887 might have been more than a protest-gone-violent. Upon learning of the events, Sherlock takes to the newspapers and reviews the various personal ads he believes are clever messages sent between the members of the London underworld. He quickly determines that the riots were a distraction for a more dastardly plot. With Watson and Lestrade on hand, Holmes attempts to sleuth out the crime that is about to be committed and hopefully stop it before it can be completed. Ashley Lister’s story, The Case of the Cursed Angel Tears, centers around a diamond and the earrings made from them that seem to have a dark history that results in a series of deaths wherever it goes. When the diamond’s latest victim is a lord who is shot during a hunt, Lestrade is quick to chalk the death up to another case of the diamond’s history, but Holmes is never one to rely on the supernatural. Holmes and Watson seek to investigate the surviving family and their servants in order to figure out exactly what caused the lord’s death and the true history of the Cursed Angel Tears. In The Case of the Air that Was Taken by Keith Brooke, Sherlock notices that a recently released art thief is dead by apparent natural causes. Holmes’s own personal history with the man and his former gang leads the detective to believe that some clever bit of foul play is at hand. Holmes and Watson travel to the thief’s brother’s house, the surviving member of the former gang, in the hopes of proving he is somehow guilty of the man’s death. What they discover ends up being an even more dastardly plan than Holmes could have imagined. The collection’s sixth story, The Chandelier Bid, takes a different perspective, literally. Instead of being written from the point-of-view of Dr. Watson, or even Holmes (as was done by Conan Doyle on occasion), Rose Biggin writes this tale from Irene Adler’s side. While the character only showed up once in the original text, she has been a character that has been touched on and referenced heavily in various works that have sought to expand the original mysteries. In this case, Ms. Adler is in London on tour with the opera when Watson shows up and asks her to help Sherlock with a case he is working on. Upon arriving at the famous apartment, Sherlock presents Irene with a case where a local artist has suddenly become very popular, despite everyone’s belief that his work is simply not very good. Given Sherlock’s stunted emotional range, he asks that Irene join him at a local auction in order to help him determine if the art truly is bad and, if so, why is the artist so inexplicably sought after. The Recalcitrant Rhymester by Mark Mower has Sherlock setting a trap for one of Moriarty’s former lieutenants. The criminal has become a card shark and is making quite a lot of ill-begotten money. It has been hard for the local constabulary to pin anything on the man, but with Sherlock on the case, you can be sure that yet another one of Moriarty’s associates will find himself behind bars. There are a couple of stories in The Book of Extraordinary New Sherlock Holmes Stories: The Best New Original Stores of the Genre that go further into the fantastical than anything Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ever did, and while I do appreciate creative licensing and seeing how Sherlock would respond to unexpected scenarios, some of the stories just went a bit further than I was expecting. Typically when Sherlock encounters the supernatural, what is actually going on is something quite mundane, clever yes, but mundane nonetheless. What the Dickens! by Rhys Hughs is one story that sits fully in the fantastic and Holmes’ supremely logical mind not only has no problem accepting the events that occur in it, but he doesn’t seem to even consider more realistic possibilities. In this story, Holmes gets called upon by a strange client. Sherlock quickly realizes that it is famed author Charles Dickens, despite the writer having been dead for almost two decades. Upon hearing Dickens’ tale about time travel in order to learn how he will finish writing his latest novel, Sherlock not only quickly surmises what the man must do next, but also helps him solve the mystery in his unfinished work. Of the many stories in this collection, this one feels very out of place, but at least the main character is still very Sherlockian. There is another story later in the book that feels even more absurd than What the Dickens!, but we will come back to that in a bit. Another supernatural-themed story follows What the Dickens!. In He Who Howls, O’Neil De Noux pits Sherlock and Dr. Watson against a possible werewolf. Upon hearing this latest client’s tale, Sherlock quickly recalls an early case of his with similar themes. In it, he helped a small village police force stop a brutal killer who thought himself a werewolf. Now, a decade or so later, it sounds like the same villain is not only alive, but killing yet again. Holmes and Watson venture into the small town to track down and stop this beast from Sherlock’s past once and for all, hopefully. Where the previous story made no attempt to explain the supernatural, at least in He Who Howls, Sherlock muses that he does not know if the killer was actually a werewolf, or just someone so mad he acted as if he was one. Like Rose Biggin’s focus on Irene Adler, Catherine Lundoff’s story takes a one-off established character and brings her back in The Adventure of the Missing Fiance. Here, Violet Hunter, Sherlock’s client from The Adventure of the Copper Beeches, asks Holmes for help yet again. It has been some time since those strange events, and Ms. Violet has moved away and become a teacher in the hopes of leaving her previous adventure behind her. Unfortunately, her fiance’s recent disappearance and the man’s previously-unknown parents’ appearance looking for him leaves Violet in distress. She once again calls on Sherlock to help her and hopefully by the end of this mystery, she will be married. As a side note, Mrs. Hudson plays a prominent role in this story, giving her much more character development than Conan Doyle ever did. In the anthology’s eleventh story, The Tell-Tale Tea Leaves by Keith Moray, Holmes has taken up an extremely unexpected hobby, fortune telling. He has become obsessed with everything from horoscopes to reading tea leaves. It appears that his obsession began when he started investigating a criminal who uses fortune telling to get blackmail material. Unfortunately, when Sherlock goes to confront the blackmailer, the man ends up dead. Sherlock appears to be on the run as the primary suspect and, as hard as it is for Watson to believe, it looks like his friend is also responsible for a bombing. Can Watson figure out exactly what happened at 221 B Baker Street and clear his friend’s name, or will Sherlock’s legacy be that of villainy? Naching T. Kassa’s The Adventure of the Black Key strikes just the right chord when I think of Sherlock Holmes stories. The mystery and its conclusion both feel right when compared to the original tales. In this story, Sherlock is hired by a widow who has been hearing voices since her husband’s death. She feels like she is being haunted and, when her maid dies unexpectedly, she feels she must go to the famous detective in the hopes of learning what exactly is going on in her life. The only issue I really have with this story, and it is a minor one, is an anachronism that is used several times in the book. You see the widow’s manor is old; it dates back to Queen Elizabeth I’s reign. Unfortunately, Kassa has the characters refer to the Queen as “Elizabeth the First” several times. Given that Sherlock takes place in Queen Victoria’s era, or at the latest Edward VII, there is no second Queen Elizabeth for anyone to refer to the first Elizabeth as “The First.” I know this is a minor, nitpicky detail, but every time I read it, I was jarred out of the story severely. And now we come to it. The story I was referencing earlier when talking about Sherlock Holmes and the supernatural. Where the Charles Dickens-centric story was strange when it comes to Sherlock tales, Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s The World Is Full of Obvious Things goes even farther. In this story, Sherlock is tasked by Queen Victoria, herself, to track down and stop the killer that is stalking London. While it doesn’t outright say he is going after Jack the Ripper, it is fairly clear, just like while the story doesn’t outright say the name of Sherlock’s new companion, it’s pretty clear. You see, Holmes ends up teaming up with a strange figure with apparent supernatural abilities, only referred to as The Count. He never calls him Dracula, but between Sherlock’s own vampire-comments and the clues hinted at by the strange figure, it doesn’t need to be said. So yeah, here we have Sherlock teaming up with Dracula to hunt Jack the Ripper. Don’t get me wrong, I like fantasy. I even don’t really mind it mixed in with Sherlock. After all, I enjoy the addition of his character to Mercedes Lackey’s recent Elemental Masters books, but this just didn’t really feel like Sherlock Holmes. This whole story just felt really off to me and didn’t sit well at all. This story didn’t sour my feelings for the book as a whole, but the few outright supernatural stories amongst a collection following literature’s most un-supernatural character really brought down my overall opinion of this collection. Thankfully, The Book of Extraordinary New Sherlock Holmes Stories: The Best New Original Stores of the Genre doesn’t end on that note. Like most of the stories in this collection, the book’s last two tales really capture the feel of Sherlock Holmes. In The Case of the Missing Sister by Jan Edwards, we learn that Watson has an older sister who married when Watson was young. Sherlock learns this when his niece contacts them because her mother has disappeared. Now Sherlock and Watson must go to the town she was living in, in the hopes of finding her. Rounding out the collection is David Stuart Davies’ The Case of the Terrified Tobacconist. In this final mystery, the wife of a tobacco shop owner comes to Holmes and explains that her husband has suddenly disappeared. Holmes and Watson set forth to investigate and uncover the missing husband’s secret past. Unfortunately, what they discover might not be to the wife’s liking. Overall, The Book of Extraordinary New Sherlock Holmes Stories: The Best New Original Stores of the Genre is a good collection of stories. While I can’t say every story in this book is a great tale, and some aren’t good Sherlock stories, they are still good stories. Even What the Dickens! and The World Is Full of Obvious Things aren’t bad, they just don’t feel like they should feature Sherlock Holmes. If you are an avid Sherlock fan and want to see new stories following these characters, then you will find what you are looking for here, just know that not everything in this collection might fit your expectations. I guess the best way to put this is “your mileage may vary” depending on how seriously you take your Sherlock.|
|-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications|
AKA Chris Meyer
The Book of Extraordinary New Sherlock Holmes Stories
The Best New Original Stores of the Genre
Your favorite sleuths return. An icon of detective fiction, readers have come across Sherlock Holmes and his mythical stories of crime and adventure for generations. In this new short story anthology, literature reunites with the beloved British detective, his powers of deduction, and his unerring quest for the truth.
A cornucopia of British detectives, dark deeds, and derring-do. Collected by one of the genre’s eminent editors, The Book of Extraordinary New Sherlock Holmes Stories features the timeless detective alongside favorite Sherlock Holmes characters, like Moriarty, Holmes, and Watson. Bringing together some of the most renowned American and British authors of crime today