Written by Loren D Estleman — Estleman is best known to crime fiction fans for his enduring series about Detroit PI Amos Walker. Indeed, we reviewed his latest, Burning Midnight, a few months back. However he’s also a noted Sherlockian, and his pastiches Sherlock Holmes vs Dracula and Dr Jekyll and Mr Holmes remain two of his best selling books. They have remained in print for nearly 30 years.
The Perils of Sherlock Holmes collects Estleman’s short stories and essays featuring the world’s first consulting detective, as well as one story never before published. Besides the author’s success with writing novels about Holmes, perhaps the book’s biggest selling point is it’s the only single-author compendium to be authorised and licensed by the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Here’s a selection of the stories and essays.
The first essay, Channeling Holmes, serves as an introduction to the book, as well as providing us with some thoughts from Estleman on why Holmes remains such an enduring literary character. The second, On the significance of Boswells, makes sure good old Dr Watson, often much maligned and ridiculed, gets a fair shake. Was Sherlock Holmes The Shadow? (A Trifle) explores the possible reasons why the two great crimefighters of the pulp age were never seen in the same room together!
In the short story The Adventure of the Arabian Knight, Holmes and Watson are engaged by Sir Richard Francis Burton, true life explorer and discoverer of the source of the Nile – and translator of the Karma Sutra! – to find a map of King Tutankhamen’s tomb that’s been stolen from his office. Meanwhile, The Adventure of the Three Ghosts sees Estleman referencing A Christmas Carol as Holmes and Watson journey to the estate of rich banker Lord Chiselhurst who is being haunted by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and future.
Dr and Mrs Watson at home: A Comedy in One Unnatural Act is a brief bit of fun, a two character play suggesting the delightful doctor’s wife is having an affair with Professor Moriarty.
I have lost count of the number of Sherlock Holmes books I’ve read that were not written by Arthur Conan Doyle and the hit to miss ratio seems about 50:50 – the fact that I persevere at such odds says something about the detective’s appeal. Those which succeed for me, such as The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes by Jamyang Norbu, either have to feel they could have been written by Doyle, getting the plotting and style, and particularly the relationship between Holmes and Watson just right, or they have to gently subvert the original.
There are parts here where Estleman does both. A noted stylist already, his Walker novels could be the most faithful updating of Chandler I have read, Estleman has no difficulties with authenticity, and elsewhere he playfully lampoons the characters and their attitudes. My one complaint is that the book could have been a little longer with more emphasis on the stories. The essays are enjoyable but I doubt I would read them a second time.
£12.61 (Note, the iBook version is only £8.99)
CFL Rating: 3 Stars