on 13 August 2011
Take a thin story (to say the least), references to the author's other works and a titular character who is hysterical on a tediously regular basis, and the result is this book...the writing style is nothing like Watson's and the characters, as already mentioned, act and speak out-of-character or have been forced in so that the author can refer to his other works.
I wasn't impressed, quite frankly.
Then take the book iteself - a foreword, an afterword, an extract froma another book and 10 pages of adverts and, of course, a story that isn't worth it makes it seem like one almighty cash in on both the part of the publisher and the author. I shall be viewing the rest of the series of books with a touch more cynicism and discernment from now on.
on 15 October 2013
The books that make up The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes seem to be divided into two distinct categories: on the one hand there are the sensible tales of deduction and derring-do which are clearly intended to be both tributes to, and extensions of, the Sherlock Holmes tales of Arthur Conan Doyle, while on the other hand there are the downright peculiar stories where Holmes is partnered up with various famous folk [both real and otherwise] and thrust into outlandish situations [Martian invaders, zombies on the London Underground, Cthulhu on the rampage, etc] without even the sniff of a stolen jewel, blackmail plot or nefarious kidnap caper. Philip Jose Farmer's The Peerless Peer is rooted firmly in the latter category of Sherlockian sagas.
The Peerless Peer is set during Holmes' retirement when, in the midst of the First World War, the great detective had left London for a sojourn in the country and had hung up his deerstalker in favour of a beekeeper's veil. Doctor Watson has recently suffered the loss of his fourth wife and is passing a pleasant evening with his colleague Doctor Fell [Gideon Fell, physician and amateur sleuth created by John Dickson Carr] when he receives an urgent summons to the Home Office from Mycroft Holmes. Sherlock Holmes has likewise been summoned since, it emerges, the devious Baron Von Bork [last encountered in Conan Doyle's His Last Bow] has stolen the secret formula of a refugee Hungarian scientist working for the British Government in Cairo. This formula permits a certain type of bacillus found only in the land of the Pharaohs to be chemically modified to eat only sauerkraut. Seriously, the British Government were planning on winning the First World War by destroying the German supply of sauerkraut.
Unfortunately, now that Von Bork has the formula, there is concern at the highest levels of Government that the Kaiser may authorise its modification and then use on British potatoes or cabbage [eel pie and Bourbons being sacrosanct of course] and so Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson are dispatched to Egypt to try and recover the formula. This being pre-Easy Jet times, the detecting duo have to take a number of flights to reach their destination and so must steel their nerves and stomach contents to deal with the flying skills of first Captain Wentworth [G-8?] and then Colonel Kentov [The Shadow?]. Various airborne shenanigans later, Holmes and Watson find themselves stuck in Africa where they have the [mis]fortune to encounter Tarzan and continue their search for the missing formula.
Quite clearly, The Peerless Peer is not a typical Sherlock Holmes novel. There is no complex mystery at the heart of the story for one thing. Although Holmes and Watson are on the trail of the dastardly Von Bork and the all-important formula, there are none of the cerebral twists and turns that are normally encountered during the course of their investigations. The Peerless Peer is more of a ripping-yarn adventure than a detective story and so may well not appeal to fans of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories.
As to the adventure element of the story, it is quite exciting and there are plenty of references for fans of pulp novels and comics to spot. There is only a little build-up in London before Holmes and Watson are on the case and then a great deal of time is taken up with airplane-related hijinks before the duo find arrive in Africa and, since the airborne action seems to be done more for comedy than for tension, the story is not as thrilling as it could have been. The arrival in Africa leads to the introduction of Tarzan who, it turns out, may have a link to a previous investigation conducted by Holmes and Watson. Philip Jose Farmer provides an interesting interpretation of the Tarzan story which is bound to polarise devotees of Edgar Rice Burroughs and he does succeed in making Holmes' encounter with the Lord of the Jungle seem fairly plausible[ish].
Farmer has also created an unusual interpretation of his central characters. Although Holmes is clearly older and in a weaker physical condition than that which Arthur Conan Doyle established from him, it is still surprising that he spent so much of The Peerless Peer with his head in a bucket or down a toilet. It's hard to imagine Holmes succumbing to motion sickness quite so completely when there are important matters of state security to be solved. He also spends a fair bit of time bumbling about as he and Watson are taken prisoner by one group after another. Fortunately, Holmes does get to put his [bee-related] intellect to good use to get them out of a particularly sticky situation and, ultimately, to deduce the location of the missing formula. As for Doctor Watson, he is once again looking for love in the most peculiar of places [it's hard to determine whether he is incredibly lucky in love or just incredibly unlucky] although it's hard to believe that his Victorian sensibilities would permit him the odd episode of voyeurism.
The Peerless Peer is a very quick read [the actual story is roughly only 105 pages with the rest of the book being commentary and filler materials] that offers a nice bit of silliness featuring the ever-popular Holmes and Watson. Since the story is lacking in actual mystery and detection, it might leave fans of the traditional Sherlock Holmes adventures a bit flat, but will entertain those who enjoy an outlandish yarn and those who have always pondered on how Holmes would manage in a zero gravity situation.