Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The Outstanding Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes by Gerard Kelly

Those fans of Sherlock Holmes (and they would appear to be in the majority) who dislike any deviation from the canonical style of the orginal detections will love this book. The reader can almost hear Sherlock himself speaking from the comfort of his armchair by the fire in Baker Street. The stories are good. Some are very good: and all are enhanced by the author's own illustrations. While these lack the tautness of Sidney Paget, their fuzzy outlines give them an eldritch quality which is quite pleasing, and one is used with great effect on the cover of what is a very well-produced article. Something  which we have come to expect from this publisher. My favourite story is perhaps the very short 'The Disappearance of the Good Ship Alicia', if one accepts that a whole vessel and its crew can become buried in the sand. The research here is familiar, and not so self-consciously 'clever' as in some of the other tales. Codes abound for Sherlock to solve, and riddles - some well-known, others invented by the writer, and all making 'The Musgrave Ritual' seem very small beer indeed. There are investigations which sound positively Dickensian, and one at least which is certainly not for the squeamish or for the recently bereaved. Altogether a good buy!

The Case of the Grave Accusation A Sherlockian Adventure by Dicky Neely Editor Paul R. Spiring

This is not so much a book as a 'conceit'. Holmes and Watson 'come off the [Victorian] page' and into our world to defend their creator against the charges of plagiarism, adultery and incitement to murder. It reads like a piece of ephemera, and as such sits somewhat uneasily with Mr. Spiring's careful and solid scholarship - so one is not surprised to learn that the tale first appeared in a (now defunct) Texas newspaper. Having said that, the whole thing is great fun - and was writtten well in advance of the Cumberbatch/Freeman 'modernisation' of the canon by the BBC. We have Sherlock showing Watson "a truly marvellous invention" called a desktop computer, and bringing him a suit of clothes "more in keeping with  the contemporary fashion." Watson says that, although showers were around in his day, "they were nothing like this one, which produced torrents of hot water for so long as I desired. What luxury!" The pair have travelled to Devon to refute the allegations of  'Roger la Pelure d'Ail' (a pseudonym for the real-life Rodger Garrick-Steele who in 2000 wanted Bertram Fletcher Robinson's body exhumed to prove he had been poisoned by Doyle because he was about to reveal himself as the real author of The Hound of the Baskervilles). Paul Spiring ably refutes this in a series of contemporary notes after Holmes and  Watson give d'Ail his come-uppence and then return "to the pages of books that were written long ago." Altogether a very refreshing piece of hokum which must (and should) be popular with all Sherlockians, and sell like the proverbial hot cakes.