Editor George Mann has put together a new collection of short-story pastiches. While his previous Holmes collection (Encounters of Sherlock Holmes) was heavy on the steam-punk, sci-fi and otherwise non-traditional side, this new book -- though tilting a bit towards the supernatural -- for the most part keeps to more traditional formats. However, I have to say the writers don't sound all that much like they're trying to write in the Victorian or Edwardian manner. This is probably a good thing, because most modern writers can't handle those styles anyway. What I'm trying to say is don't expect even the traditionally-formatted pastiches to sound -all- that traditional. I give this book 5 stars for the inclusion of all manner of interesting stories and the overall enjoyment I felt from reading it.
There's a very thoughtful introduction to the book written by George Mann, and it really made me smile because of one thing he said in particular: "...Holmes will never die. No matter what a succession of writers might choose to do with him. There'll always be an untidy sitting-room in Baker Street, London, in which a man wearing a tatty old dressing-gown sullenly smokes a pipe, ekes sounds out of a violin and contemplates the nature of the criminal mind."
The Adventure of the Professor's Bequest by Philip Purser-Hallard
-- Something stolen from the Moriarty family has the potential to bring down the whole of Christendom...or maybe just bring down Holmes. Somewhat intriguing story but I saw the slightly-unsatisfactory end coming a mile away.
The Curious Case of the Compromised Card-Index by Andrew Lane
-- Holmes has transferred all of the intelligence from his commonplace books to index cards with the idea of using something like Babbage's analytical engine to sort them when needed. But returning with Watson from a long trip, the detective realizes that while they were gone, someone entered 221B and stole the information from the cards -- not the cards themselves, just the information! Computer-age problems at the pre-dawn of the computer age.
Sherlock Holmes and the Popish Relic by Mark A. Latham
-- Watson's acceptance of things that cannot be explained clashes with Holmes's hard-headed rationalizations when they are hopelessly lost in an endless catacomb while pursuing a thief and would-be murderer. Traditional mystery with supernatural overtones.
The Adventure of the Decadent Headmaster by Nick Campbell
-- Mr. Campbell, having a problem plotting a pastiche for an anthology, consults a medium hoping that she will be able to contact the deceased John Watson to ask him for a story. What follows is something Watson did not want to write about while he was alive: the time that he and Holmes visited a most prestigious boys' school to investigate the appearance of the body of a woman, the disappearance of a student, and the murder of one of the masters.
The Case of the Devil's Door by James Goss
-- Believing that his country's London embassy literally attempted to devour him, a foreigner unknowingly guides Holmes and Watson to a vicious plot intended to destroy exiled patriots hoping to slip back into their homeland via an underground railroad.
The Adventure of the Coin of the Realm by William Patrick Maynard & Alexandra Martukovich
-- On a passenger liner returning from a visit to New York, Holmes and Watson become involved with a group of coin dealers after one of the merchants is thrown overboard, and the only witness to the act dies in Watson's cabin. This comes off like a "Watson is an idiot" story because the murderer is so obvious it made me want to throw something really hard. Very weak mystery. Maybe the "too many cooks" syndrome.
The Strange Case of the Displaced Detective by Roy Gill
-- A time-travel story. An aged Holmes comes back from the future in order to convince Watson to deflect present-day Holmes from taking a case, the solution of which will lead to the the worst of all dystopian worlds.
The Girl Who Paid For Silence by Scott Handcock
-- A child who witnessed the horrible mutilation death of her girlfriend comes to Watson to tell him what she saw and beg him to find the killer. Excellent supernatural tale which emphasizes Watson's kind and empathetic nature.
An Adventure in Three Courses by Guy Adams -- On the first anniversary of Mary Watson's death, Holmes takes his old friend out for dinner at a peculiar restaurant which features a bizarre menu, rude waitstaff, and hostile fellow diners. ("Wonderful, isn't it?" Holmes asks happily.) The stunning twist at the end reveals the vast regard in which Holmes holds Watson. I would say this story and the one which follows it are worth the price of the entire book.
The Sleep of Reason by Lou Anders
-- A story within a story involving New York detective S. Quentin Carmichael, his companion Dr. Avery F. Wilson, trips to Mars, opiates and green carnations. Despite how it sounds, this is an absolutely astonishing Sherlock Holmes story.
The Snowtorn Terror by Justin Richards
-- Holmes and Watson investigate when the body of a man is found lying in the snow with his throat cut, no knife in sight, and no footprints or tracks of any kind in the vicinity. A local legend speaks of a supernatural being that haunts the mountain, but Holmes is more interested in a recent nearby train derailment and bullion robbery.
A Betrayal of Doubt
by Philip Marsh -- An inexplicable locked-room murder with apparent supernatural overtones scares the London populace so badly that Scotland Yard decides to call Sherlock Holmes out of retirement AND give him a Watson to work with. Thus the adult son of John Watson meets the elderly Sherlock Holmes, and is not at first entirely impressed.