In the Company of Sherlock Holmes
This is the book, the one that resulted in Sherlock Holmes being declared public domain. Co-editor Leslie S. Klinger, in addition to being the editor of The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, is also a lawyer, you see. The Conan Doyle Estate demanded payment for a license for this book, and Klinger sued. The result was favorable to all those, like these authors, inspired by Holmes. The introduction sums it all up, or you can find more details at the Free Sherlock! website.
The book may be remembered more for its historical effect than its contents, since they’re a mixed bag, although I enjoyed more of the stories (all new) than not. I suspect people attracted by the idea of “more Holmes stories” will be surprised by how many of the stories are modern or don’t feature Holmes directly. It’s important to pay attention to the subtitle, “Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon”, and the phrase “inspired by”. In the Company of Sherlock Holmes is a followup to A Study in Sherlock, which took the same approach.
For example, the book’s first story, “The Crooked Man” by Michael Connelly, is a Harry Bosch tale using elements of the Holmes story of the same name and featuring a coroner named Art Doyle nicknamed “Sherlock”. While atmospheric, it doesn’t tie up its loose ends as neatly as the classic stories, and it likely is more satisfying to those who’ve read Bosch before.
Sara Paretsky’s “The Curious Affair of the Italian Art Dealer” is much more what I expected, a story set in the classic milieu, although Holmes fans may not like their hero being wrong a few times. There’s more focus on Watson and an homage to Amelia Butterworth, a detective from the late 1800s created by Anna Katharine Green.
I loved “Dr. Watson’s Casebook”, by Andrew Grant, which abridges The Hound of the Baskervilles into a series of Facebook-like posts. I particularly enjoyed the humorous use of likes and dislikes. For example, when Dr. James Mortimer shares “The Legend of the Baskerville Family”, it’s followed by “Sherlock Holmes does not like this”, because he finds such a “fairy tale” “complete nonsense.” Or when Mortimer encourages the heir to continue renovating Baskerville Hall, it’s liked by “The Association of Devon Building Contractors”.
“The Adventure of the Laughing Fisherman” by Jeffery Deaver is a modern take that really works. Paul Winslow has Holmes-like deduction and observation powers but suffers from depression. He loves the Holmes stories and finally finds a way to use his love in the real world. The story takes a twist you won’t see coming that’s shocking in its audacity and rewarding in how neatly it all ties together.
I was impressed by “Dunkirk”, by John Lescroart, which is set during the World War II operation of 1940. A “Mr. Sigerson” assists on a small boat evacuating British soldiers from the beach and the encroaching German army. It’s not a mystery, but the subtle emotion really affected me.
There’s a comic entry, “The Problem of the Empty Slipper”, written by Leah Moore and John Reppion, drawn by Chris Doherty, and inked by Adam Cadwell. I liked Doherty’s art style a lot, with its streamlined European influence, and I’ll be looking for more work by him. The eight-page story is bizarre, featuring Holmes running through London, interacting briefly with a variety of people along the way, after getting a smoke of his favorite pipe tobacco. The other stories are as follows:
- “The Memoirs of Silver Blaze” by Michael Sims retells the mystery involving a stolen racehorse from the horse’s point of view.
- “Art in the Blood” by Laura Caldwell follows the disruption of life and business of an art dealer called “the Sherlock Holmes of the art world”.
- “Lost Boys” by Cornelia Funke is a psychological dive into Holmes’ boyhood by way of an abused Baker Street Irregular.
- “The Thinking Machine” by Denise Hamilton is the story of a data analyst, unfamiliar with emotional intelligence, whose new boss is named Moriarty. The analyst works on programs to predict buyer behavior at the same time his family is struggling with life changes.
- “By Any Other Name” by Michael Dirda is a literary mystery that starts by postulating A. Conan Doyle as a pen name used by his friend Watson. It’s peppered with references to other works and characters of the period.
- “He Who Grew Up Reading Sherlock Holmes” by Harlan Ellison is a confusing mishmash.
- “The Adventure of My Ignoble Ancestress” by Nancy Holder features a best-selling author paralyzed by the murder of her parents who inherits a house related to a Holmes story.
- “The Closing” by Leslie S. Klinger is a bittersweet tale of a divorced couple, one a Holmes fan, trying to move on with their lives.
- “How I Came to Meet Sherlock Holmes” by Gahan Wilson is a short biographical sketch followed by three cartoons with Watson and Holmes.
(The publisher provided a digital review copy.)