The Adventure of the Plated Spoon and Other Tales of Sherlock Holmes

The Adventure of the Plated Spoon and Other Tales of Sherlock Holmes cover

Unlike the other recent collection of Sherlock Holmes stories, The Adventure of the Plated Spoon and Other Tales of Sherlock Holmes relies mostly on reprints and curiosities, with just a few new tales.

The book opens, after an introduction by editor Loren D. Estleman that emphasizes the continuing popularity of the title character, with a short, silly parody by J.M. Barrie (writer of Peter Pan and contemporary of Arthur Conan Doyle) that I first read in 1944’s The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes, the anthology by Ellery Queen that was pulled from publication after a dispute with Doyle’s estate. “The Adventure of the Two Collaborators” has been published since then, of course — the copyright page credits a 2007 collection. Also reprinted from that long-ago Queen collection is Vincent Starrett’s “The Adventure of the Unique Hamlet”, about bibliophiles. (The copyright on that is quite misleading. Although the in-book story introduction states that the piece is “now in the public domain”, the copyright page credits a book collection that is copyright 1975.)

The Adventure of the Plated Spoon and Other Tales of Sherlock Holmes cover

The author Queen is represented next by a chapter from A Study in Terror, the 1966 paperback retelling of a movie that pitted Holmes against Jack the Ripper. That one is credited to a 2001 reprint edition — I keep mentioning the copyright page because I find it odd, given the recent legal debates over Holmes, that such recent versions were cited.

The prolific Edward D. Hoch is responsible for a more recent choice. “The Adventure of the Dying Ship” appeared in the February 2014 issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, although it was apparently written around 1998. It situates Holmes on the Titanic, perhaps because the movie had come out in 1997 and put the boat back in everyone’s minds. It also guest-stars the author Jacques Futrelle, a mystery writer who died in the catastrophe in real life.

There’s a chapter of a Fu Manchu novel by Sax Rohmer that features Holmes and Watson-like characters and an excerpt from the first novel by Laurie R. King featuring Mary Russell, a young woman who captivates the retired Holmes. Most interesting to me was a short piece (two pages’ worth) by Arthur Conan Doyle himself from 1922, although “How Watson Learned the Trick” is quite unsympathetic to the loyal sidekick. Arthur’s son Adrian contributes “The Adventure of the Red Widow”, with an old family, a manor house, and a guillotine.

Not everything in here is a reprint — there are a few new stories. “The Mysterious Case of the Urn of ASH; or, What Would Sherlock Do?” by Deborah Morgan features her novel character Jeff Talbot, an antique seeker. He obtains a trunk full of Holmes-related memorabilia, which leads him to solve a long-ago mystery. I thought it well-written and a pleasant palate cleanser from the too-faithful fan-worship of some of the other pieces.

“The Adventure of the Deadly Interlude” by James O’Keefe follows Watson during the period where he thought Holmes dead. “The Adventure of the Rounded Ocelot” by Larry D. Sweazy sends the team to the Bahamas to investigate a missing piece of art. Although following the original characters, it has a more modern tone, which didn’t sit right with me. The editor’s “The Adventure of the Plated Spoon” pairs Holmes and Watson up first to find Watson’s missing wife and then to defeat the “white slavers” who tried to capture her. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)

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