Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Booknote: New Sherlock Holmes Adventures

Title: New Sherlock Holmes Adventures
Author: Various, edited by Mike Ashley
Publication Information: Edison, NJ: Castle Books, 2004
Genre: Short Fiction
Subgenre: Detective/mystery
Note: The book was previously published as The Mammoth Book of New Sherlock Holmes Adventures
Pages: 524, including appendixes and notes

If you are a Sherlock Holmes fan who has read everything Arthur Conan Doyle wrote, this is definitely the book for you. Out of the various books out there claiming to continue the adventures of the great detective, this one makes an effort, and succeeds, in providing new adventures that are convincing in terms of the characters as well as entertaining and enjoyable to read. As avid readers of this genre know, new stories are usually presented as some tale that Dr. Watson recorded but did not publish. Maybe it was a tale found in his safebox or in some other place that needed to be edited for publication. From the Foreword:

"The apocryphal Sherlock Holmes story need not be a great detective story, but it has to be a convincing story of the great detective. The character is more important than the case. . . .[The volume] contains an impressive array of cases that Watson mentioned and it has a scholarly status as it is arranged in chronological order with a connecting narrative that provides a biographical background."

The anthology is excellent. The stories are overall good detective stories, and they capture the essence of Holmes and Watson from the detective's forgotten first case to the last one as he was in the twilight of his life. In this, the editor did a great job with the introductions and connecting narratives, which serve as a little biography of the detective's life. Those notes are just as good as some of the stories, which make this book fun to read. Note that the stories are based on events that Watson mentioned in the stories Conan Doyle wrote. So, if Watson mentioned that Holmes was involved in such and such a case, but he could not write it down at the time, you will likely find the case here finally revealed. The book includes a good array of writers and readers who have researched the life of Holmes and Watson, maybe uncovered a new case and wrote it up for our enjoyment. Some of the names readers may know include Stephen Baxter, John Betancourt, and Michael Moorcock. Additionally, the book includes an appendix with "A Complete Chronology of Sherlock Holmes Cases" and another appendix, "The Tales of Sherlock Holmes," with a list of the tales in the canon (the ones Conan Doyle wrote) and the apocryphals (those written by others, a selective list). This second appendix makes a great list of items if readers are interested in other things to read. Overall, the pace of this book was good and steady. I don't think it had a bad story in it, which is a rare thing to say for any anthology of short fiction. I especially liked the one where Holmes meets H.G. Wells, and I was delighted by the tale of Holmes' first case while he was still in college. I highly recommend this collection, which I read cover to cover (I often skip supplementary things like appendixes unless they seem relevant). So, if you are a Sherlock Holmes fan, give this book a try. It's not just a collection of stories; it really works well as a "Life of Sherlock Holmes."

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