Edited by George Mann — Titan Books brings us another collection of new short stories featuring the world’s first consulting detective. Most Sherlock Holmes anthologies feature reprints of popular stories, and it is difficult for such books to stand out in a crowded field. Last year, Mann managed this by bringing steampunk and science fiction elements together in The Encounters of Sherlock Holmes. His authors also mixed some of their own series characters in with Holmes and Watson. This time around, while those elements are again present, it is to a lesser degree and there is more of a traditional Holmes flavour to the stories.
Alongside Mann’s introduction there are 12 pieces, ranging from just a few pages to two that are almost novella length. One story is co-written by two authors. The collection gets off to a solid start with The Adventure of the Professor’s Bequest, as Holmes and Watson investigate the theft of some of his arch enemy Moriarty’s papers. They contain information, which if leaked could cause anarchy threatening to destroy civilisation.
In The Curious Case of the compromised Card-Index, author Andrew Lane is not afraid to show Holmes’ ruthlessness as he investigates the theft of his criminal files which have fallen into the hands of a blackmailer. Sherlock Holmes and the Popish Relic is a suitably gothic tale of haunted houses, fortune tellers and cults. The story leaves Watson fearing for his sanity as the duo search an underground labyrinth for missing Catholic treasure.
The Case of the Devil’s Door, written by James Goss, takes us into the heart of Victorian London as Holmes and Watson investigate a case with international dimensions. Holmes has to utilise all his skills of disguise to identify why expatriates from the Central American state of San Pedro are disappearing as they attempt to join the underground railway bringing them home to ferment revolution against their dictator. The solution involves an enjoyable play on words.
The Adventure of the Coin of the Realm Mixes together two classic mystery staples – a locked-room mystery and a closed situation with only a limited number of suspects. In this instance it’s a cruise ship returning from New York. A rare coin dealer has been thrown overboard and the member of the crew who witnessed the murder is poisoned. In classic style, each passenger has a reason for wanting him dead. This is perhaps the most traditional mystery of the collection, and is one of the most enjoyable.
It is followed by The Strange Case of the Displaced Detective, written by Roy Gill. It’s one of the more bizarre stories and is not really a mystery at all, but a science fiction tale involving time travel. It features a warning from the future for Dr Watson.
Guy Adams is the author of two Sherlockian novels for Titan Books, both of which have strong fantastical elements. With An Adventure in Three Courses, he delivers a more traditional, but still very inventive piece, in which Holmes accepts an invitation to a private dining club, knowing full well murder may be on the menu. Remarkable for its brevity and wit, this was my favourite of the collection.
The Snowtorn Terror is another traditional mystery in which Holmes realises the main crime is not the in the discovery of the corpse with his throat cut, but a recent railway robbery.
In The Further Encounters of Sherlock Holmes, Mann relies less on the bizarre and fantastical, and is content to let the perennial pull of the classic characters hold the reader’s interest. Except for a couple of duds, the authors serve him well and the collection is both a diversion and a pleasurable read. It’s released 28 February in the UK.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars