I wasn’t sure what to expect when I began reading A Study in Sherlock. The tagline is “stories inspired by the Holmes Canon”, so I was thinking the stories would be about Sherlock Holmes.
Which would have been fine. It’s been a while since I read one of the original Holmes stories, but I quite enjoyed them when I did. Whether anyone could write a Holmes story that way Arthur Conan Doyle could – well, that I wasn’t too sure about. Still, I was willing to find out.
I was pleasantly surprised, though, to discover that while the stories in A Study in Sherlock have to do with Sherlock Holmes, very few of them actually had Holmes as a character in the story. And those that did feature Holmes himself were written in a different style than the original Holmes stories.
Since my latest, greatest media indulgence is the BBC series Sherlock, it was also refreshing to find that several of the stories were set in the present day. (But no, not with Holmes as an actual character … )
I didn’t like every story in the anthology, but really, that’s the nature of an anthology, isn’t it? With all the different writing styles showcased, there are bound to be a few that you might not like. Since I have no problems with not finishing something that doesn’t catch my attention, when I came across one that didn’t really suit me as a reader, I just quickly flipped over to the next story.
There were also a few stories in which the whole Holmes connection rather escaped me, but on reading the little author blurb at the end of the story, usually there was reference to how the story was very similar to one of the original Holmes stories.
I did enjoy most of the stories, though. When I finished the last one, it was with regret that there weren’t a few more to read.
My favorites? It’s hard to choose, but I’d have to say:
“As to ‘An Exact Knowledge of London”’” by Tony Broadbent. Broadbent is a new-to-me author, but after reading this story, I’ve put his novel The Smoke (about a roguish Cockney cat burglar in postwar London who gets blackmailed into working for M15 and is then trained by Ian Fleming) on my to-read list. I think the thing that appealed to me most about this story was how Broadbent integrated the pop culture aspect of Holmes into the narrative.
“The Case of Death and Honey” by Neil Gaiman. Gaiman’s tale was one of the few in the book that actually featured Holmes as a character, but it’s not told in the style of Doyle. It is pure Gaiman – imaginative and thought provoking. Very enjoyable.
“A Triumph of Logic” by Galey Lynds and John Sheldon. I admit, I figured out whodunnit soon after we visited the scene of the crime, but what I liked about this one were the main characters, Judge Boothby and Artie. Sheldon is working on his first suspense novel which will feature these two characters, so I’m adding this to my to-watch-for list (or rather, I would, if I kept such a list. Which I really should.)
“The Eyak Interpreter”, by Dana Stabenow. This story features Stabenow’s Kate Shugak. The first Kate Shugak mystery, A Cold Day for Murder, has been sitting in my TBR pile for a while. After reading this story, I’m definitely moving it up near the top of the file. (By the way, the Kindle version of A Cold Day for Murder I’ve linked to above is currently free.) The short story is told from the perspective of Johnny (I’m not sure what relation he is to Kate), a teenager who’s in Anchorage and blogging about it as part of a school assignment. A fun way to structure a story.
I liked several of the other stories too. For example, Jacqueline Winspear’s “A Spot of Detection” had a nice, unexpected twist at the end that made me smile. Charles Todd’s “The Case That Holmes Lost” has a very fun premise – someone is suing Sherlock Holmes, the fictional character.
All in all, this was a great read. And it’s resparked my interest in reading mystery short stories; when I was in my 20s, I read a lot of mystery and science fiction short stories, and reading this anthology I was reminded how really nice it is to sit down with a well-written short story.
I’ve also decided to reread the original Holmes stories. I put a hold on Leslie Klinger’s The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, so hopefully I’ll be able to get a start on that soon!