Article published on February 9, 2012.
Since his inception in 1887, the character of Sherlock Holmes has taken on a life of his own. Seen as a sort of Victorian super-hero, capable of solving any crime from the most heinous to the trivial, the tales of Holmes have continued to amaze, amuse and inspire in equal measure. A Study in Sherlock represents only a tiny droplet in a huge ocean of adaptations, re-imaginings and derivative works that has followed in the wake of the original stories.
The collection brings together a motley array of authors, producing a variety of stories all with this one united theme: Sherlock Holmes. These range from modern-day re-interpretations of Holmes to stories merely in Conan Doyle’s original template, and move through different formats, such as a Twitter conversation, a blog, and even a graphic comic alongside the more traditional method of storytelling. There are additions to the canon, such as Thomas Perry’s tale of when the Great Detective met the President of the United States, and new stories which touch upon Sherlock’s favoured pastime (bee keeping, according to Neil Gaiman) and activities after Reichenbach Falls. Conan Doyle even features himself, in Charles Todd’s ‘The Case That Holmes Lost’, where he tries to save Holmes from being sued for slander, a quirky role reversal that is one of the best in the book.
Not all of the tales are as successful, and few hit the lofty heights of Conan Doyle’s own, but there is much to enjoy within. Particularly interesting are the more modern interpretations of Holmes, which aim to show how a mind like the Great Detective’s would deal with sleuthing in modern times. Lionel Chetwynd’s Sergeant-Major Robert Jackson is one such example, somehow always ahead of the game in ‘The Shadow Not Cast’. The variation helps to engage the reader too, with the constantly changing styles and settings meaning that each story, even if it doesn’t quite hit the spot, is at least a fresh experience with a variety of protagonists, ranging from school children to the more traditional detectives.
Occasionally, however, it does feel that the stories are occasionally lacking and the quality of the stories can vary. Holmes is such an intriguing character, full of contradictions and shrouded in mystery, and Watson is an empathetic biographer telling the stories with verve. It needs a great character to take his place, and there are only a few in A Study in Sherlock. Yet taking away the Sherlock Holmes element and looking at this as an anthology detective fiction, these are readable stories and it is an enjoyable collection.
The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Web Weaver, by Sam Siciliano
An extract from Altar of Bones
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