NESFA Members' Reviews


edited by Marvin Kaye

St. Martin's Press, ISBN 0-312-14037-1, 1996, 337pp, US$24.95

A book review by Evelyn C. Leeper

Copyright 1996 Evelyn C. Leeper

In the introduction to this anthology, it is explained that notes from several unwritten Sherlock Holmes adventures were discovered and that consequently, various famous authors were commissioned to write up the stories from these notes. Given that the authors were supposedly asked to imitate Watson's (Doyle's) style as closely as possible, one wonders why such a variety of famous authors were needed and, in any case, each author's style breaks through. That shouldn't surprise the reader--that's obviously the point.

The first story is "The Adventure of the Amateur Mendicant Society" by John Gregory Betancourt (supposedly H. G. Wells), and does have a very similar style to Doyle's. The story itself has promise, although the resolution leaves one moderately unsatisfied as being a bit contrived in regards to Holmes's position.

But "Victor Lynch the Forger" by Terry McGarry (Theodore Dreiser) is more what one expects: a story with Holmes written in a style different than Doyle's. And here is where the first flicker of doubt begins. While it is possible to do this style shift successfully, it is usually in humorous pieces (Sherlock Holmes as told by Dr. Seuss-- that sort of thing). Done as a serious work, it has interest from a literary standpoint perhaps, but the story no longer has much of the appeal the originals did, which is their style. Recounting the plot of a Holmes story in bland prose would not have captivated generations of readers. Without Doyle's style, something is missing.

"The Case of the Notorious Canary Trainer" by Henry Slesar (W. Somerset Maugham), "The Repulsive Story of the Red Leech" by Morgan Llewelyn (Ernest Hemingway), and "Holmes and the Loss of the British Barque Sophy Anderson" by Peter Cannon (C. S. Forester) seem more matched with their purported authors because of subject matter than style, at least that I can detect, which I suppose is the stated plan.

With "Sherlock Holmes, Dragon-Slayer" (The Singular Case of the Grice Pattersons in the Island of Uffa) by Darrell Schweitzer (Lord Dunsany) we return to stories whose style is definitely that of their purported authors. These include "The Adventure of Ricoletti of the Club Foot" (and his abominable wife) by Roberta Rogow (P. G Wodehouse), "The Giant Rat of Sumatra" by Paula Volsky (H. P. Lovecraft), and "Mrs. Vamberry Takes a Trip (Vamberry the Wine Merchant)" by Mike Resnick (J. Thorne Smith). The Volsky is one of the better stories, with the style working with the Holmesian atmosphere rather than against it. The Resnick, on the other hand, may be Smith's style, but this only shows that Smith should not have written Sherlock Holmes stories. (By the by, the biographical paragraph about Resnick in the back seems to go out of its way to list such obscure books that fans won't even recognize that this is the same man who has twelve Hugo nominations.)

"The Adventure of the Boulevard Assassin" by Richard A. Lupoff (Jack Kerouac) is certainly in the style of Kerouac. However, it is not a style I like and because of this, this was my least favorite story in the book. "The Madness of Colonel Warburton" by Carole Bugg (Dashiell Hammett) is also definitely in the style of its purported author, even without the ending, but only serves to show that Holmes is not a hard-boiled detective--nor is Watson.

"The Manor House Case" by Edward D. Hoch (Ellery Queen) is much more in the Ellery Queen style than Sherlock Holmes, with the usual "obvious" clue. (Doyle didn't always "play fair" with the reader, often having Holmes make his deductions based on information not given to the reader until the very end when Holmes explained everything.)

"The Adventure of the Cripple Parade (The Singular Affair of the Aluminium Crutch)" by William L. DeAndrea (Mickey Spillane) and "Too Many Stains (The Adventure of the Second Stain)" by Marvin Kaye (Rex Stout) are two more hard-boiled stories, again reinforcing my earlier statement about how Holmes and this style do not mix.

Although there are a few good stories here, on the whole I cannot recommend this anthology.

%B      Resurrected Holmes
%A      Marvin Kaye
%C      New York City
%D      March 1996
%I      St. Martin's Press
%O      hardback, US$24.95
%G      ISBN 0-312-14037-1
%P      337pp
%S      Sherlock Holmes

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