Why has Sherlock Holmes captured the imagination of readers for more than one hundred years? Why, long after the death of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, have writers turned to his great creation and attempted to replicate the style and tone of Doyle’s incomparable stories of a brilliant, but flawed detective? Holmes may well be the most enduring figure in literature. It is hardly an exaggeration to suggest that some new work related to Holmes has been published every year. Then, there are the movies and books about various characters, including Moriarty and Irene Adler. The lists and permutations go on.
Once again a new edition of Holmes stories has come before us with tales that are a treat to the eye and ear. In Sherlock Holmes in America there are 16 new stories, along with an introduction and two concluding essays. One essay recounts Holmes’s (Doyle’s) anti-Irish sentiments; the other how Doyle brought Holmes to America. The final piece is a short talk Doyle gave on November 18, 1894 to the famous Lotus Club in New York City as he neared the end of an American tour. He spoke of the romance of America, “the romance of change, of contrast, of danger met and skillfully overcome...” We see the seeds of these new stories in the remarks he made that evening.
In “Recalled to Life” by Paula Cohen, Holmes meets a discredited and ruined former detective who is nearly his equal in powers of observation and deduction. Holmes’s intuitive analysis of Battle’s former profession and his subsequent meeting with Battle’s implacable foe, lead Holmes to develop a most delicious and judicious solution.
It is difficult to pick a “best” story from this superb collection, but the first one by Lyndsay Faye, “The Case of Colonel Warburton’s Madness,” immediately sets the proper tone for the remainder of the stories. Watson, in an effort to pull Holmes out of the doldrums, recounts a story of his experience in San Francisco some years ago. While Holmes is not a participant in the story Watson tells, his interjected questions, comments, and analysis are just right to let the reader know that these two are partners in justice, thinking along the same wavelengths.