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Sherlock Holmes in America

edited by Martin Greenberg, Jon Lellenberg, Daniel Stashower

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

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Sherlock Holmes in America

© Skyhorse Publishing

Skyhorse Publishing, March 2009

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.
These new stories uphold the high standards of the originals, adding glory to the Canon. In Carolyn Wheat’s “The Case of the Rival Queens,” we learn of Holmes’s fascination with bees, a study that consumed him in retirement. His observations and knowledge of the poisonous effects of oleander honey enable him to make a startling pronouncement of guilt. In a number of the stories we learn details of the Great Detective’s activities after his “death” at the Reichenbach Falls. We read about his visits to Coronado, California, Salt Lake City, Boston, and New York – even to Chicago, which he found most unappealing.

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.
All the stories are first rate. Those that feature Watson as the narrator capture the tone and rhythm of the original stories. The stories narrated by others elicit the feel of turn-of-the-century journalism. For example, Jon L. Breen’s “The Adventure of the Missing Three Quarters,” is told by a newspaper reporter who shows Holmes around town, including a meeting with Amos Alonzo Stagg, head football coach at the University of Chicago. This story is marked by acute observation and that ultimate twist at the end, proving that Holmes remains unsurpassed in detecting the perpetrators of any number of crimes.

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.
Let’s hope these editors (and the writers they selected!) will revisit Holmes before too much time passes. One story notes that Holmes traversed Europe and Asia to reach America after the events at Reichenbach Falls. Surely, something of interest happened along the way. Readers would like to know. Perhaps a long lost manuscript will be discovered in a dusty attic, and we will be apprised of these events.
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