Review: In League with Sherlock Holmes edited by Leslie S. Klinger and Laurie R. King

Review: In League with Sherlock Holmes edited by Leslie S. Klinger and Laurie R. KingIn League with Sherlock Holmes: Stories Inspired by the Sherlock Holmes Canon by Laurie R. King, Leslie S. Klinger
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical mystery, mystery
Series: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon #5
Pages: 368
Published by Pegasus Crime on December 1, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
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The latest entry in Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger’s popular Sherlock Holmes-inspired mystery series, featuring fifteen talented authors and a multitude of new cases for Arthur Conan Doyle’s most acclaimed detective.
Sherlock Holmes has not only captivated readers for more than a century and a quarter, he has fascinated writers as well. Almost immediately, the detective’s genius, mastery, and heroism became the standard by which other creators measured their creations, and the friendship between Holmes and Dr. Watson served as a brilliant model for those who followed Doyle. Not only did the Holmes tales influence the mystery genre but also tales of science-fiction, adventure, and the supernatural. It is little wonder, then, that when the renowned Sherlockians Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger invited their writer-friends and colleagues to be inspired by the Holmes canon, a cornucopia of stories sprang forth, with more than sixty of the greatest modern writers participating in four acclaimed anthologies.
Now, King and Klinger have invited another fifteen masters to become In League with Sherlock Holmes. The contributors to the pair’s next volume, due out in December 2020, include award-winning authors of horror, thrillers, mysteries, westerns, and science-fiction, all bound together in admiration and affection for the original stories. Past tales have spanned the Victorian era, World War I, World War II, the post-war era, and contemporary America and England. They have featured familiar figures from literature and history, children, master sleuths, official police, unassuming amateurs, unlikely protagonists, even ghosts and robots. Some were new tales about Holmes and Watson; others were about people from Holmes’s world or admirers of Holmes and his methods. The resulting stories are funny, haunting, thrilling, and surprising. All are unforgettable. The new collection promises more of the same!

My Review:

Because I’m a sucker for a good Sherlock Holmes pastiche, and in the right mood even for a bad one, I’ve eagerly anticipated each of these collections as they’ve appeared and I’ve read every single one of them, beginning with the very first, A Study in Sherlock back in 2011. This first entry in the series includes what is still my favorite story across the entire five volumes, The Case of Death and Honey by Neil Gaiman

It’s hard to believe that this current volume is the fifth in the series, after A Study in Sherlock, In the Company of Sherlock Holmes, Echoes of Sherlock Holmes and For the Sake of the Game.

Like most such collections, this one is just a bit uneven. The stories that work, really, really work. The ones that don’t fall flatter than the proverbial pancake.

I think I’ve read every single one of these collections as they have come out, and my favorite is still the very first one, A Study in Sherlock, although I have certainly discovered favorite stories in many of the later volumes.

I have to say that this entry in the series did not live up to its predecessors. As the series has gone on, the stories have ranged further and further from their original inspiration, in ways that, at least in this particular volume, feel like they owe more to cleverness than detection.

To put it another way, I like my Sherlock to more or less be a kind of Sherlock. It’s not necessary that the stories feel like the original canon – unless that’s done well it can be terribly off-putting. But when I hear the name Sherlock Holmes I expect a detective story of some kind, and too many of the stories in this entry in the series seemed to be showing off how ‘twee’ they could be rather than how well they could solve a case.

But I still have two favorites even in this somewhat motley crew.

James W. Ziskin’s The Twenty-Five-Year Engagement is a classic pastiche, featuring the original Holmes and Watson solving a case that was so old and so cold no one even knew it was a case. It’s not the first time, that the unexpected return of a person long-though deceased has provided new clues to an old murder for the Great Detective, and this one shows the deft hand of both the investigator and the writer in constructing – and solving – such a conundrum.

The Strange Juju Affair at the Gacy Mansion by Kwei Quartey was a classic of a completely different kind. It is the kind of Holmesian homage where, rather than Holmes himself serving as the detective, the investigator is someone who uses Holmes’ methods and applies them with Holmes’ genius at a time and place that Holmes never visited, in this particular case Kasoa, Ghana at an unspecified time period that feels like it is much later in the 20th century – if not the 21st – than Holmes would have lived to see. The detective is a retired police superintendent who never visits the crime scene, but with a few questions to his younger – and rather desperate – colleague still manages to solve a classic locked-room mystery.

Escape Rating B-: Too much of this entry in this long-running series went too far afield for this reader. But those two stories were right on the mark as lovely but totally different Holmes pastiches. Your reading mileage will, of course, vary. That is the point of these collections, that there is something for every reader looking for a taste, in this case a taste of Sherlock Holmes.

Review: For the Sake of the Game edited by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger

Review: For the Sake of the Game edited by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. KlingerFor the Sake of the Game: Stories Inspired by the Sherlock Holmes Canon by Laurie R. King, Leslie S. Klinger
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: anthologies, historical mystery, mystery, short stories
Series: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon #4
Pages: 272
Published by Pegasus Books on December 4, 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

For the Sake of the Game is the latest volume in the award-winning series from New York Times bestselling editors Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger, with stories of Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, and friends in a variety of eras and forms. King and Klinger have a simple formula: ask some of the world’s greatest writers—regardless of genre—to be inspired by the stories of Arthur Conan Doyle.

The results are surprising and joyous. Some tales are pastiches, featuring the recognizable figures of Holmes and Watson; others step away in time or place to describe characters and stories influenced by the Holmes world. Some of the authors spin whimsical tales of fancy; others tell hard-core thrillers or puzzling mysteries. One beloved author writes a song; two others craft a melancholy graphic tale of insectoid analysis.

This is not a volume for readers who crave a steady diet of stories about Holmes and Watson on Baker Street. Rather, it is for the generations of readers who were themselves inspired by the classic tales, and who are prepared to let their imaginations roam freely.

Featuring Stories by: Peter S. Beagle, Rhys Bowen, Reed Farrel Coleman, Jamie Freveletti, Alan Gordon, Gregg Hurwitz, Toni L. P. Kelner, William Kotzwinkle and Joe Servello, Harley Jane Kozak, D. P. Lyle, Weston Ochse, Zoe Sharp, Duane Swierczynski, and F. Paul Wilson.

My Review:

Welcome to my review of the biennual collection of Sherlock Holmes-inspired stories edited by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger. This is an every two years treat, as evidenced by my reviews of the previous collections in this quasi-series, A Study In Sherlock, In the Company of Sherlock Holmes and Echoes of Sherlock Holmes.

The stories in all of these collections were inspired by Holmes, one way or another, and are commissioned for the collections. And like all collections, they are a bit of a mixed bag. The game, however, is definitely afoot, both in stories that feel like they could be part of the original canon, and in stories that take their inspiration from the Great Detective without necessarily featuring him in either his Victorian guise or a more contemporary one.

I have several favorites in this year’s collection, one each to reflect the different aspects of Holmesiana that are represented here.

My favorite story in the manner of the master himself The Case of the Missing Case by Alan Gordon. It takes place before the canon begins, when Mycroft is still working his way up the government ladder, and Sherlock, in his very early 20s, has not yet taken up rooms with Watson. And is not yet quite as sure of himself and his methods as he will later become. It actually fits quite nicely into the period between the excellent Mycroft and Sherlock by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Whitehouse, and the beginning of the official canon.in A Study in Scarlet.

In this story we see a very young Sherlock justifying his continuing presence in London to the consternation of his parents and the absolute chagrin of brother Mycroft by solving the case of a missing violinist and saving his brother’s life. This story also provides a rather lovely explanation for Sherlock’s acquisition of his famous Stradivarius.

This collection has relatively few Holmesian stories set in the Victorian era. Most are either modern variations of Holmes – or modern detectives, whether amateur or professional, who use Holmes’ methods.

Of the contemporary Holmes stories, I can’t decide between Hounded by Zoe Sharp and The Ghost of the Lake by Jamie Freveletti. They are such completely different versions of the 21st century Holmes that choosing between them is impossible.

Hounded by Zoe Sharp is so much fun because it is a contemporary reworking of The Hound of the Baskervilles. It shows just how timeless the canon can be, by transplanting from the 19th century to the 21st and still making it all, including the ghostly hound, work.

The Ghost of the Lake, on the other hand, is a 21st century version of Holmes that owes a lot to both Elementary and Sherlock without feeling like an imitation of either. In this story, Sherlock Holmes is a 21st century operative for a secret British government department who has come to Chicago to prevent the kidnapping of an American national security specialist who has plenty of tricks up her own sleeve – and who is every bit Holmes’ equal in every way.

I liked, not only the portrayal of Holmes in this story, but also the character of Dr. Hester Regine. And I loved the trip down memory lane to Chicago, my favorite of all of the places that we have lived.

Last but not least, the story that took the phrase “inspired by Sherlock Holmes” to new heights. And depths. And several places in between. That would be The Adventure of the Six Sherlocks by Toni L.P. Kelner. This story both spoofs the love of Holmes and celebrates it at the same time, as its amateur detectives find themselves using Sherlock Holmes’ own methods to investigate a murder at a convention of Sherlock Holmes fans.

The story reminds me a bit of Bimbos of the Death Sun by Sharyn McCrumb, where an author is murdered at a science fiction convention – but if “Six Sherlocks” uses that book as a springboard, it’s a very light spring.

Even the idea of a cooking show featuring actors portraying Holmes and Watson is hilarious. But when someone murders “Holmes” at the Sherlock Holmes convention, there are too many pretend Sherlocks and nearly not enough real ones to crack the case. This one is a light and fun send up of fan conventions in general and Sherlock Holmes mania in particular as well as being a cute mystery.

Escape Rating B+: Overall I enjoyed this collection. There were a couple of stories that just weren’t quite my cuppa, and one or two where it felt like they were a bit too far off the Holmesian tangent to be in this collection.

I read it in a day, finding myself getting so caught up in each story that I almost finished before I knew it. If you like Holmes or Holmes-like or Holmes-lite stories, this collection is every bit as much of a treat as its predecessors.

Of all the stories in all these collections, the one that still haunts me is from the first one, A Study in Sherlock. It’s The Case of Death and Honey by Neil Gaiman, and it’s the one that I still most want to be true.

Review: Echoes of Sherlock Holmes edited by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger

Review: Echoes of Sherlock Holmes edited by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. KlingerEchoes of Sherlock Holmes: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon by Laurie R. King, Leslie S. Klinger
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Series: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon #3
Pages: 368
Published by Pegasus Books on October 4th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

In this follow-up to the acclaimed In the Company of Sherlock Holmes, expert Sherlockians Laurie King and Les Klinger put forth the question: What happens when great writers/creators who are not known as Sherlock Holmes devotees admit to being inspired by Conan Doyle stories? While some are highly-regarded mystery writers, others are best known for their work in the fields of fantasy or science fiction. All of these talented authors, however, share a great admiration for Arthur Conan Doyle and his greatest creations, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.
To the editors’ great delight, these stories go in many directions. Some explore the spirit of Holmes himself; others tell of detectives themselves inspired by Holmes’s adventures or methods. A young boy becomes a detective; a young woman sharpens her investigative skills; an aging actress and a housemaid each find that they have unexpected talents. Other characters from the Holmes stories are explored, and even non-Holmesian tales by Conan Doyle are echoed. The variations are endless!
Although not a formal collection of new Sherlock Holmes stories—however some do fit that mold—instead these writers were asked to be inspired by the Conan Doyle canon. The results are breathtaking, for fans of Holmes and Watson as well as readers new to Doyle’s writing—indeed, for all readers who love exceptional storytelling.

My Review:

in the company of sherlock holmes edited by laurie r king and leslie s klingerThis collection is the third editorial collaboration of Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger of newly commissioned tales that fall somewhere in the Sherlock Holmes tradition, if not the Holmes canon. Like the previous collections, A Study in Sherlock and In the Company of Sherlock Holmes, this outing too is a mixed bag. Some stories are memorable, some stories are wonderful. A few are both. And then there are some that either just didn’t move me or didn’t really feel like they belonged in this particular collection.

I do have several favorites this time around, more than in Company.

Where There is Honey by Dana Cameron drew me in because it feels like a somewhat earthier version of the real Holmes canon. Partly because of the Victorian era reluctance to deal with the earthier and seamier side of life, Holmes often comes off as a plaster saint, either a bit too good or a bit too unworldly to be true. The versions of Holmes and Watson in Cameron’s story feel more like real men, who have real bodies and face real emotional issues. Watson here clearly has PTSD that he keeps at bay through writing, at least some of the time, and likes a good fight. In this story Holmes is every bit as annoying as he can be, but also worries about paying his half of the rent, or Watson sometimes does that for him. The case is complex and nasty in its way, and our heroes enjoy providing the villains’ comeuppance. But they feel real.

Tasha Alexander’s Before a Bohemian Scandal reads like a story that wasn’t in the canon but should have been. In this story, we see Irene Adler’s affair with the Crown Prince of Bohemia from its starry-eyed beginning to its cold-hearted end. It’s impossible not to sympathize with Irene’s predicament, and to see just how nasty a man the future King of Bohemia turns out to be. This story is not just good on its own, but also gives depth to the canon story of A Scandal in Bohemia.

The Adventure of the Empty Grave by Jonathan Maberry is another story that could easily be encompassed by the original canon. It takes place during the Great Hiatus between Reichenbach Falls and The Adventure of the Empty House. In this tale a grief-stricken Watson visits Holmes’ empty grave and encounters a most surprising visitor – a man claiming to be the elderly C. Auguste Dupin, the living inspiration for the detective creation of Edgar Allan Poe. Dupin eventually convinces a skeptical Watson both of his reality and his purpose – to warn Watson that even though Moriarty is dead, his criminal enterprise is not. When Dupin disappears in the end, leaving behind the accouterments of his disguise, both the reader and Watson are left to wonder if he was a ghost after all, or a disguised visit from an absent friend.

Several of the stories in this collection are meta in one way or another. Holmes on the Range by John Connolly posits a library straight out of The Eyre Affair, where fictional characters retire to live out their “lives” after their authorial creators have died. The librarian is perplexed when Sherlock Holmes appears after the publication of The Final Problem and alarmed when Holmes is resurrected in The Adventure of the Empty House but also continues to inhabit this very special library. He fears the arrival of a second Holmes upon the eventual death of his author, and fears that having two of the same character will do irreparable harm to the delicate balance that allows the library to exist.

In Raffa by Anne Perry, an actor who plays Sherlock Holmes in one of the inevitable revivals finds himself attempting to serve as the “real” Holmes when called upon by a very desperate and very, very young “client”. Watching the actor become absorbed in the part of Holmes, and his part as rescuer, makes for a lovely little story.

Of the stories where a detective who is very definitely not Holmes uses Holmes’ methods to solve a case, my favorite is definitely Martin X by Gary Phillips. I loved this one because it transplants the methods and a bit of Holmes’ personality to a time, place and person who would initially be assumed to be as far from Holmes as possible. “Dock” Watson is a black private detective, occasional bodyguard and sometimes intelligence officer who is called to investigate the death of a fictional heir to Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy. It is 1976 and New York City is still reeling from the “Son of Sam” murders. J. Edgar Hoover may be dead, but his heirs and his methods are still running the FBI, and are still conducting dirty tricks campaigns against the leaders of any movement that twisted brain found suspect – especially the Black Power movement. This Watson finds himself investigating not just the murder of a leader, but also the concerted effort by someone to make sure that the void in leadership stays void – by any means necessary. An undercover Sherlock Holmes, along with Watson, discover a chain of criminality that leads from street gangs in Harlem to someone very dirty in the CIA. This was a terrific story that made me wish there were more. Lots, lots more.

study in sherlock by king and klingerEscape Rating B+: This collection was every bit as good as the first one, A Study in Sherlock. Most of the stories here were at least enjoyable, if not memorable. And there were only a couple that either didn’t feel remotely Holmesian or just didn’t work for me. I hope there will be another editorial collaboration in this series, because each book introduced me either to new perspectives on Holmes, or new authors of mystery.

As a final note, I’m haunted by Cory Doctorow’s The Adventure of the Extraordinary Rendition. This tale of a 21st century Holmes up against the modern security state embodied by his brother Mycroft felt all too possible. And all too frightening because of it.