Echoes of Sherlock Holmes ed. Laurie R King and Leslie S Klinger

The game’s afoot…

😀 😀 😀 😀 🙂

echoes-of-sherlock-holmesIn their introduction, the editors explain that they asked the contributors to this anthology for stories “inspired by Holmes”, and the contributors have risen to this challenge with a huge dollop of originality and imagination. There are 17 stories, some just a few pages, some more substantial. There are plenty of well known names here – Denise Mina, Anne Perry, John Connolly, et al, along with some I hadn’t come across before. I always enjoy this type of anthology as a way of being introduced to writers of whom I may have heard but not so far read – in this one, both William Kent Kreuger and Catriona McPherson fell into this category.

The standard is remarkably high, both in terms of creativity and writing. Of course, the quality is variable and my own preferences meant that I enjoyed some of the stories more than others, but well over half the stories achieved 4 or 5 star status from me, and of the rest only a couple seriously disappointed. What I liked most was that, because the focus was on inspiration rather than pastiche, each story went off in directions that surprised and often delighted me. Some have based Holmes in the present day, or had their protagonist be inspired by Holmes and attempt to use his methods. Some have looked at stories in the original canon from a different angle. Some concentrate more on aspects of Conan Doyle’s life. And some have really used the original stories as a springboard to leap off into imaginative worlds of their own. Here are a few of the ones I enjoyed most…

Holmes on the Range by John Connolly – This is the first story in the book and immediately gave me the feeling I was in for a treat. The Caxton Private Lending Library is a place where the characters of great books go when their authors die. (Isn’t that already just such a brilliant idea?) But one day, something very odd happens – although Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is still very much alive, Holmes and Watson appear in the library following the events at Reichenbach Falls. They settle in quite happily and all is well, until ACD is persuaded to resurrect Holmes. What will happen when ACD dies? Will the library end up with another Holmes and Watson? Holmes sets his brilliant mind to finding a way out of this dilemma… A lovely conceit with lots of fun references to literature in general and the Holmes stories in particular, this is extremely well written and well told.

holmes rathbone

Before a Bohemian Scandal by Tasha Alexander – This tells the story of the Crown Prince of Bohemia and Irene Adler, and how she came to have the cabinet photograph that caused all the trouble. Very well told, and remains reasonably true to the spirit of the characters – Irene Adler showing all the spirit and intelligence that led Holmes to think of her as the woman.

The Spiritualist by David Morrell – It’s the latter days of ACD’s life. He has opened a spiritualist bookstore but can’t convince a disbelieving world that it is possible to communicate with the dead. One night when he can’t sleep, he is visited by the ‘ghost’ of Holmes, who takes him back through his life to try to work out why he has become so convinced of the truth of spiritualism. Very well written, and quite moving as we learn of the various tragedies in ACD’s life – his father dying in an asylum, the early death of his beloved first wife, the death of his son in WW1. A great story.

Mrs Hudson Investigates by Tony Lee and Bevis Musson – Ha! Suddenly in the midst of all these written stories a fun little graphic story appears! After Reichenbach, Mrs Hudson and Irene Adler team up to foil the nefarious plans of Moriarty’s housekeeper! The story is silly, but intentionally so, and the drawings add loads of humour. This is a nice little sorbet to cleanse the palate between courses.

mrs-hudson-investigates

Raffa by Anne Perry – This may be my favourite of all the stories, though it’s a close call. Actor Marcus St Giles is the latest TV Holmes. One day he is approached by a distraught little girl who believes him to be the real thing. She tells him that her mother has been kidnapped and begs for his help. He takes her to the police, but they think he’s pulling some kind of publicity stunt so refuse to believe him. So Marcus is forced to try to solve the case himself, with the help of his friend, the TV Watson. Great writing and quite touching in places, but with a humorous edge. The thing that makes it special is seeing Marcus’ character develop as his growing feelings of responsibility towards the little girl overcome his rather spoiled, bored attitude at the beginning of the book.

Understudy in Scarlet by Hallie Ephron – An actress is invited to, she thinks, reprise her role as Irene Adler in a remake of the earlier film that is now a cult success. But when she arrives on set she discovers she has actually been cast as Mrs Hudson and is expected to act as a mentor to the beautiful younger actress cast as Irene. Swallowing her pride, she agrees. But it’s not long before things begin to take a sinister turn… Lots of fun, well told and with plenty of Holmes’ references, but making no attempt to pastiche.

holmes-and-watson

As you can see, there’s plenty of variety in the approach the contributors have taken. Although not every story is 5-star, the standard overall is excellent, and I’m sure will please any fan of the originals as much as it pleased me. Highly recommended.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Pegasus Crime.

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24 thoughts on “Echoes of Sherlock Holmes ed. Laurie R King and Leslie S Klinger

  1. Im’ really impressed, FictionFan, withthevarity e of authors here. Of those whose work I know, they write different sorts of books, they have different sorts of approaches and so on. When it’s done well, that can add quite a lot to an anthology. And with King as one of the editors, I’m sure that the stories are indeed fine tributes to the original Holmes canon. This does sound like a good ‘un, and I’m glad you enjoyed the stories.

    • It’s a great selection of authors – every one of them shows a lot of talent, even the ones whose style didn’t work so well for me. And I loved the way they interpreted the brief, going off in all sorts of different directions – fun!

  2. This sounds excellent!! I like that there’s a good mix of style and tone in these stories… Can’t wait to get home and order it!

    I’m glad you mentioned that one of the stories takes a graphic novel approach. In the past, graphic elements haven’t always come through right on my Kindle so I’ll be sure to get a print copy.

    The way my coworker is coughing, I’ll be taking sick leave soon. I need to store up books and disinfectant. 😀

    • It’s the variety that really appealed to me, and why on the whole I prefer anthologies to one author collections. I hope you enjoy it! 🙂

      Yes the graphics were OK on my Kindle Fire tablet, but I had to zoom and move them about and so on. They’d definitely work better on paper, I think. Haha! Breathe in those germs and get in a supply of chocolate… 😉

  3. Sounds a good one. I’m fond of Laurie R. King’s Holmes and Russell stories, so that will encourage me to read this one. It’s funny, I usually hate it when an author writes about another’s characters, but Holmes seems to be the exception that proves the rule.

    • I still haven’t tried those – the idea of Holmes with a female assistant just seems so wrong! But I read one of her other books and thoroughly enjoyed it, and certainly the editors have done a good selection job in this one. Oddly, though, she hasn’t contributed a story of her own. Yes, I’m the same – I guess pastiching Holmes has just become such a tradition – it’s like a genre all of its own.

  4. Sounds great! I have just finished reading The Sign of the Four which was the last classic Sherlock Holmes mystery I had left to read. So now I will need to look elsewhere for new Holmes stories, as well as enjoying some re-reads 😀

    • Ah, it’s kinda sad when you get to the last story of a series you’ve enjoyed, isn’t it? But I’ve been re-reading Holmes all my life and also reading pastiches and follow-ons – some better than others! This is one of the better collections – really inaginative and good fun. If you get time to read it, I hope you enjoy it!

    • I loved the John Connelly one and I do think you would too – it’s not the story that makes it special, though, so much as the concept and all the lovely references. I thought I better put Jezza in so you wouldn’t get upset! Haha! Raffa turned out to be a toy giraffe – something of a disappointment. Giraffes are not noted for their biceps…

  5. I think you’ve stumbled on a good one, FF. I find it interesting to read of the different authors’ takes on this challenge. I haven’t read this anthology, but I suspect Raffa might be much to my liking — and how cool is it that they’ve included a graphic story, too!!

    • I liked the way the stories didn’t attempt to pastiche the originals but spun off from it instead, and loads of them are very good. Raffa was a favourite – it was one of the longer ones so plenty of room for a bit of character development. The graphic story was a surprise, and fun! 🙂

    • Yes, it could, but the majority of the authors handled it really well, showing affection for the originals but still managing to be original. It helped that the first story was so good – that put me in the mood for the rest! Hope Santa pays attention… have you been a good girl??

  6. I still haven’t read all of the original Sherlock Holmes books but I really want to read this. I’m especially interested in Before a Bohemian Scandal – Irene is a fascinating character.

    • Oh, I’m envious – I’ve read them all so often I can practically recite them! If you get a chance to read it, I hope you enjoy it – there are a few of them that spin off from the Irene Adler story, including the little graphic story which is a lot of fun! 🙂

    • Me too! The characters from old classics who end up there spend most of their time dozing, but whenever their book gets a sudden surge of popularity, like when a new TV adaptation is made, it revives them and they become active again. I’m going to think about that every time I post a pic of Darcy… 😉

  7. When I was in college, I would occasionally see listed for the next semester a class that studied one author, perhaps two. I could see a whole class on Doyle with this anthology included. If I were the professor, I would tap into my creative writing background and have the students rewrite a scene from a Holmes story from a different character’s point of view and then justify the changes they made. This is an exercise that I’ve done in other lit courses that turns out really well! I especially liked using Quicksand by Nella Larsen.

    • That sounds like it would be a great idea, and also fun! I think the secret with Holmes is for writers not to pastiche the originals, but to take a different spin on it. But they have to stay true to the spirit of the originals. One of the stories in this anthology, which I hated, had Holmes and Watson as drug-addled, booze-guzzling criminals. Since it’s unlikely anyone will read these stories except fans, I wondered who the writer thought that would appeal to. Another, the little graphic story, also took major liberties with the characters, but did it to be funny, so it worked. Of course writers should write what they want, but if they hope to be read they really have to consider what their audience will want…

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