The True Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
The True Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Annotated Edition parodies the first set of Sherlock Holmes stories, those contained in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. There are 12 stories in that collection, some of the most famous, while there are 11 in this book by Terence Flaherty. That’s because the admittedly ridiculous “Speckled Band” gets handled in an aside.
Seven of the stories first appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine between 2013-2018 (and thinking of that periodical made me nostalgic), while four are new here.
The premise is that these are the first drafts of John Watson’s stories, which accounts for the parentheticals to himself. The first story begins:
“I had seen little of Sherlock Holmes of late. My marriage and the attendant complications had shackled me ankle and wrist. (Rewrite; Mary might read this.)”
As you can see, some of the humor is broad. Holmes really likes his beer (which Watson makes into cocaine in later drafts because beer is too “déclassé”). Watson really dislikes his wife and is fooling around with other women. The important thing is, it’s also funny. At least, I found it so. Thankfully, the jabs are not mean, but affectionate. These are shared giggles, making fun of stories the reader presumably already knows and likes.
The plots can differ, which keeps the stories fresh. “A Scandal in Bohemia” plays on the other meaning of bohemian, with an artist in trouble. Other mysteries have less outré, more practical explanations that Watson then gussies up for print. “The Man with the Twisted Lip” becomes something of a farce, with various couples running around on each ather. “The Blue Carbuncle” has a great deal in common with another bird story, “The Maltese Falcon”, as “The Beryl Coronet” does with “Silver Blaze”.
There are also annotations, which explain particular historical references and carry on the conceit that these are rediscovered tales. Often curiosities in the original published versions of the stories are noted in this way, with explanation provided in comparing the drafts. Watson’s discrepancy of war wounds is thus explained, and of course, with this version of the Army doctor, a “young native woman” is involved.
I found The True Adventures of Sherlock Holmes funny and amusing and just what I needed. I like these versions of the characters, as Watson can be waspier. Here’s an early exchange I enjoyed:
[Holmes said,] “You’re looking thinner, I think. Is matrimony that wearing?”
“I’m practicing again,” I said, perhaps too hastily.
“Practicing with your parlour maid, for one, I perceive.”
“In the Middle Ages, you’d have gotten yours at the stake.”
The book is available direct from the publisher, Gasogene Books. There has been at least one more story in the series since this collection; “The Cardboard Box” appeared in EQMM‘s January/February 2019 issue.