I’m a fan of “Sherlock Holmes in the modern era” stories. I love the way they illustrate how the detective character is timeless while making entertainment out of the culture clash between the Victorian era and today.
The latest version I’m aware of is the novel Holmes Coming, published at the end of 2022. Dr. Amy Winslow, through a complicated series of events, winds up being present when an earthquake awakens a crazy man from a steampunk laboratory. She takes the man, who claims to be Sherlock Holmes, back to her San Francisco apartment.
I had reached the point in this book when a gang member called Zapper, due to his technical bent, was using a device to open powered car door locks, and it began feeling very familiar. That’s because, although not a publicized connection, this is the same plot as the 1993 TV movie 1994 Baker Street: Sherlock Holmes Returns, which starred Anthony Higgins and Debrah Farentino. A bit of research revealed that the author of this novel, Kenneth Johnson, was also the writer and director of that movie.
I liked the story better with the visuals. The prose here is workable, but not exciting, and there’s too much time spent on explaining things readers don’t really care about, such as how Holmes planned to establish his identity in a future era. Some of the visual, screen-oriented elements, such as a motorcycle chase and a killer tiger, don’t have the same immediacy in print.
Between the two mysteries — one involving a Moriarty descendent, the other with the tigers — the Holmes reintroduction, and the modern-day reactions to an antique consulting detective, there’s a lot to balance, and the mixture isn’t always successful. The case often takes second place, with lots happening in the background. Additionally, the old-fashioned take on Winslow, making her over-emotional and cliched just because she’s female, should have been better updated.
Ultimately, Winslow and Holmes crack a criminal conspiracy through a combination of allies and subterfuge. There’s a hint of romance and some truly terrible puns. On screen, you have the appeal of the actors to carry through the sparring and the old-fashioned insults Holmes inadvertently makes. In print, I kept wishing I could see it again on screen. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)