The Annals of Sherlock Holmes by Paul D Gilbert

Good plotting marred by inelegant writing…

😦 😦

the annals of sherlock holmesThis book is made up of three short novellas and my initial impressions were favourable. The first episode sets out to tell the story of one of the most intriguing of Watson’s references in the original tales; that of the politician, the lighthouse and the trained cormorant. In the second, he explains the mysterious reference to the parsley in the butter dish. The final story gives us an opportunity to meet up again with Mrs Watson’s employer in The Sign of Four, Mrs Cecil Forrester.

I found the plotting gave the authentic flavour of a Watson narration and the author doesn’t tamper too much with the Holmesian world we all know – no female assistants, for instance, thank goodness. However, there were some real problems with these stories as far as I’m concerned. The over-emphasis on Holmes’ and Watson’s smoking habits really grated after a while. Nearly every paragraph includes a reference to one or other (or both) of them lighting up a pipe, cigarette or cigar. But that paled into insignificance beside their constant cognac swilling. Cognac? I got so irritated by that that I checked and confirmed that never, not once, did they drink cognac in the original. And yet here they’re knocking the stuff back at a rate that would suggest serious addiction issues! Also Holmes and Watson rarely speak to each other without squabbling and Holmes is so excessively nasty to Watson throughout that I couldn’t help but wonder where the friendship had gone.

I can just about forgive these kinds of variations however if all else is good. What I find harder to forgive, in both the author and possibly even more in the editor, are the grammatical howlers that litter this book. Conan Doyle’s elegance in use of language is one of the most attractive things about the originals and any pastiche must at least pass the ‘writes well’ test. Phrases such as

“…somebody within the household felt that it was important enough to secrete from within the bedroom of their matriarch”


“It was only the absolute stillness of the night that rendered the subtle sound which was barely perceptible.”

are not only clunky and inelegant, they are just plain wrong.

So for the plotting and sticking within the spirit of the originals, two stars. But the poor quality of the writing means that I will not be looking out for any of the author’s other books, I’m afraid.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

40 thoughts on “The Annals of Sherlock Holmes by Paul D Gilbert

  1. The professor has a favourite (:)) line: ‘And yet here they’re knocking the stuff back at a rate that would suggest serious addiction issues!’ That made me laugh. The picture was just plumb great.

    I believe it would get quite frustrating witnessing them drinking cognac and smoking constantly!

    The two sentences are an interest too. I’m still trying to figure out the second one…

    No female assistants? I would have supposed that you would have enjoyed one…


  2. I remember us discussing the cognac question – such a silly mistake. I didn’t bother to read “The Annals” but realised that I had read “The Chronicles”, to which your review would apply equally as well.


    • It’s a pity, because the plots are pretty good. However, he gets zillions of 5-star reviews, and they can’t all be from his family surely – so maybe we’re just too picky to expect good grammar, consistent characterisation etc… 😉


  3. Your excellent review is such a good, clear reminder of how important writing style is! It’s good to hear the stories stuck to the spirit of the original, but….


    • Another one where most of the problems could have been resolved by a good edit. I know it’s primarily the author’s responsibility but I do often wonder what exactly editors do for their money…


  4. Well, even you are now speaking a strange foreign language, you’ve gone all awash in a strange professorial ocean of dadblamits.

    However ……………a wonderful picture of the very very very best Holmes ever, the divine Mr Brett on the front cover, shows that even if your man can’t write (secreting ought to stay firmly within the bedroom, I would have thought. Though possibly not the matriarch’s) he has clearly a very well-developed sense of a rounded thesp!

    Exits, stage left, secreting the chocolate stash within a bombazine handbag, pursued by a bear


    • Oh, no, no, no, m’lady! You can’t get away with that! Brett was a pale shadow of the wonderful Rathbone… Mind you, you’re one of these strange people who actually liked the female assistant. Punchinny!


        • Really, Lady, you’re quite disaggreable. I would suppose its linguistic roots are of a very ‘high’ stature, though I wouldn’t know for sure. You see, the professor just doesn’t look into things like that too deeply. It would end up confusing the mind. Wowawee, I can only imagine!

          Now aardvark…you may have got something there…


        • Children, children! Don’t fight, maburnit, or I’ll be forced to beat you both over the head with each other’s femurs – and I suspect that’d leave you both hopping mad!


          • Shouldn’t that be over the heed? I’ve NEVER been called disgrubble before. My nails and ears are kept extremely clean, and mother was scrupulous in making me understand the need for fresh underpinnings, and a pair of white gloves and a clean handkerchief to be carried at all times so as not to distress ambulance drivers who are fond of collecting people surprisingly and taking them to hospital.

            That roughpressor is quite gnatsy today. Give him some chocolate immediately (only not the best ones – suggest those horrid hard toffee ones will be good enough, though you might want to lick the chocolate off the outside first. Or if you like the caramals, give him a tube of dogchocs

            That’ll serve the varmitten right!


            • Definitely hopping mad, FF! 😆

              Dear oh me, Lady! Roughpressor has a nice ring to it, I think…

              I don’t like chocolate, so I refuse the offer. However, if you want to be agreeable, you can send some for me to bait the coons with.

              Disgrubble? Is that a new word from a strange language? I kind of like it…

              You don’t happen to be a Darby fan, do you? That would explain things…


            • My otherwise good fiend FictionFan and my very good self part company a bit over the perfectly pleasant but to me peculiarly adulated Mr Firth. Good actor, sure, but the female throbbing of the heart he produces passes me by. He reminds me a little too much of my very well loved but absolutely uncarnally regarded childhood Teddy Bear. Great for chewing the ears off, in a help teething pains sort of way, or weeping on, but, no oh no for a figure of romantic fantasy. I do like Ms Austen’s creation very much, but found Mr Firth a little too boyishly pouty to fill the Darcy persona in my mind.

              I’m probably more of a Heathcliffe sturm and drang fan, if truth be told. The inextricable allure of bad boys. Oh dear,

              Yes disgrubble was a nice invention. So thank you for that – but then you consign yourself to the fiery flames with your distaste for chocolate – any fan of the Moomintroll books knows that what separates the truly untrustworthy from the merely appearing a little forbidding is the attitude to sweet things. The magician proved, despite his red eyes, to be okay because he ADORED Moominmamma’s jam pancakes.

              Mind you, mind you – I have also thought that surrounding oneself with friends who dislike chocolate might be NO BAD THING – more for me. Its SOOOOOOO easy to generously offer the box of sweet things to someone you know will say no. Fiction Fan, on the other hand, would perform hoovering actions over the box, grabbing handfulls, secreting them up her sleeves.

              Perhaps you need to work on liking the chocolates that get left behind in the box (those toffees) thus passing the Moominmamma test but getting Bronie points for avoiding all those delicious bitter dark chocolate liqueurs. Dribbles a bit at the thought of dark chocolate and champagne truffles.


            • I see! Well, this professor is quite happy to see that you are not infatuated with the Darby! Very good. But, according to FF, that must make you jealous…

              Yes, the professor would most likely say no. Toffees are the best part, though…

              Moominmamma and Moomintroll…quite strange. Did you make them up? I’ve never heard of it before.


            • Oh, Roughpressor, clearly you had a sadly deprived childhood. No wonder you don’t like chocolate and prefer the sort of stuff which breaks teeth.

              If only I HAD made Moominmamma and Moomintroll up! How CREATIVE would I be!. The inventor was a Finnish artist and writer called Tove Jansson, of marvellous renown. She has even even the subject of some Arts Documentaries on the world famous British Broadcasting Corporation. I bet you’ve never heard of THAT either. She is known for her books for children, but also achieved regard for her books for adults as well. I don’t believe she ever wrote a good word about toffees.


            • Interestingly enough, the best chocolate factory in the world is really close to the professor. So I doubt, Lady, that you have ever tasted the best!

              Is BBC as famous as Hollywood?


            • Subjects the prof to my best dismissive glance (wrinkled quizzical brow, pursed lip, unattractively wrinkled nose, and utters the following riposte……..

              “Haviing already stated that you don’t even LIKE the chockychoc stuff how would you KNOW its the best chocky choc choc factory in the world? I rest my case…….not to mention…………..factory? FACTORY?????? The best chocolate, as all real chocky chok chok lovers know, could not possibly come from a factory, only from a sacred temple!

              Getting all two countries divided by a common language here – your lot think the abomination called HERSHEY is a chocolate. Nom de nom!

              Hollywood? Schmollywood!

              (PS I hope our inestimable cafe proprietor doesn’t mind this transatlantic spat amongst the tea and coffee cups. More tea, Professor Vicar?


            • No, Hershey is despicable. It tastes a lot like wax, I think…

              You know, the professor noticed something very interesting. The same seal that is on FF’s blog is on yours… You’re not from Scotland too, are you?

              Yes, cherry, please.


            • Ah no (the kilty hoots mon the noo question) Its a seal personally given to both of us, by Ingmar Bergman, and there are only 5 others in the whole universe.

              Oh, okay

              I’m surprised you have not heard of NetGalley – check it out. The estimable madam herself told me about it – you get to ask to be sent free books as advanced reading copies. Mind you, its possible they will only let you have ARCs if you are a fiendishly obsessive book reviewer, like what we both are, as i noticed in a recent email from them that they have now started saying ‘blogs about life’ won’t do. They made no mention of Punchy Lands though

              The seal thing was something we did to try and ensure publishers looking at our sites would see it (as NG requested) and be SO excited they would be queuing up to throw weighty tomes in our direction.

              As you can see I shrunk mine, I thought it was VULGAR.

              But the FictionFan and myself have prior form with each other from an Amazon Forum connection, but both of us departed from thence, as it was a deeply punchy place but without any Punchy Fun – just nasty biff bang wallop


            • I think the professor is ‘out of touch.’ Or something to that effect.

              You see, if I reviewed books it wouldn’t be pretty. I’d probably stop half way from supreme boredom, then I would write a ripping review that would make it seem like the professor knew what he was talking about.

              You mean that you and FF were being picked on?

              Now, Lady, you come right out with it! Are you Scottish or not?! The professor is quite confused…


            • Personally I’d rather not rehash unpleasant old history on my blog. So I’d be grateful, LF, if you don’t go into it here.

              Sorry, Prof.


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