Sunday, July 21, 2013

Review: A Study in Sherlock

A Study in Sherlock: Stories inspired by the Holmes canonTitle: A Study in Sherlock: Stories inspired by the Holmes canon
Editor: Laurie R. King (authors of each short story are next to the titles below)
Genre: Anthology, mystery, speculative fiction

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sherlock Holmes has always been a part of my life - from the time I was little, my parents introduced me to this mystery-solving madman, and I have continued to be intrigued and awed by this eccentric character. It's clear that I'm not the only one, as many of the authors here say the same things. This anthology is quite an eclectic collection of stories based on Sherlock Holmes and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - from the usual murder mystery to stories with a hint of the supernatural to conspiracy theories to contemporary adaptations, this book really does have it all. Unfortunately, because of this incredibly wide mix, some stories were pretty dull in comparison to the others. Here are a few thoughts on each of them:

- You'd Better Go in Disguise, Alan Bradley (****)
This first story was very clever and I liked the familiarity of the Holmes character. An interesting twist: (view spoiler)[ LOVED how the guy Holmes was talking to was actually the killer. Unreliable narrators whoohoo (hide spoiler)]

- As to "An Exact Knowledge of London", Tony Broadbent (**)

The writing style was melodramatic and very tedious, especially at the beginning. I didn't enjoy this one as much, especially the narrator's preoccupation with technology and going on about modern adaptations of Sherlock. It was almost like the author wanted to prove that he knew all the major adaptations of Sherlock Holmes (everything from the BBC show to Robert Downey Jr.) It just tried too hard to be modern retelling. I appreciated twist at the end though (view spoiler)[ where the fumbling man that the cabbie thought was a Watson impersonator was actually Watson pretending to be an impersonator, and Holmes and Watson were hundreds of years old and trying to avoid being discovered. (hide spoiler)]

- The Men with the Twisted Lips, SJ Rozan (**)

This story had an interesting idea - that Sherlock Holmes isn't the mastermind, only a tool that other masterminds used for their own means. I liked the concept a lot, but I was generally very confused about the explanation of how using Sherlock Holmes helped the opium traders. That might have been me being really tired when I read this one though.

- The Adventure of the Purloined Paget, Phillip and Jerry Margolin (****)

This one was a very inventive way of including Sherlock Holmes and his famous deductions. It centers on a newly discovered Paget painting and a bunch of friends that bid on the priceless possession. Of course, there is some foul play involved with such a high prize to win. I enjoyed the mystery of the Paget!

- The Bone-Headed League, Lee Child (*****)

This was one of the best stories in this anthology. My reaction as I finished was literally a gasp followed by a "wow." What a chilling and clever way to incorporate Sherlock Holmes into the story! The ending atually did made me gasp: (view spoiler)[ Sherlock trivia as a decoy for the FBI agent, distracting him long enough to allow terrorists access into America. Less than 24 hours of following red herrings, and the FBI agent's whole life (and countless others) destroyed! (hide spoiler)]

- The Startling Events in the electrified city, Thomas Perry (**)

A very dull conspiracy theory about the assassination of President McKinley, and hardly included Holmes. I didn't see why Holmes was necessary for this plan, nor did I enjoy the story.

- The Case of Death and Honey, Neil Gaiman (*****)

My favorite story in the anthology, and actually the reason I picked up this anthology in the first place. This is a fantastical reimagining of Sherlock Holmes, and is about what happens once Sherlock Holmes has retired from solving criminal cases. He turns instead to larger, more abstract mysteries...
This reimagining was both realistic and satisfyingly preternatural. The secret of the bees was very interesting indeed!

- A Triumph of Logic, Gayle Lynds and John Sheldon (****)

This story is about an American judge and lawyer who discover something unsettling about a fellow lawyer (and friend). This story really pits logic against loyalty, and the characters were quite witty and fun.


- The Last of Sheila-Lock Holmes, Laura Lippman (*)

I really didn't like this story. I thought it was subpar as loss of innocence story, and even worse as a Sherlock Holmes adaptation.

- The Adventure of the Concert Pianist, Margaret Maron (****)

I liked this story, which is told from the POV of Holmes and Watson's landlady, Mrs. Hudson. The mystery is about Mrs. Hudson's niece, the wife of a concert pianist. I thought the conclusion of this mystery was inventive in some aspects yet predictable in others. I loved Mrs. Hudson's POV though!

- The Shadow Not Cast, Lionel Chetwynd (****)

This one was very clever (the title is very significant, actually), and I liked the mentor/mentee relationship between Maggie and Jackson; I also liked that it was only loosely based on Sherlock - there weren't any forced allusions, so that was refreshing.

- The Eyak Interpreter, Dana Stabenow (***)

This story is really interesting in that it is formatted as a series of blog posts (comments are included too!). I thought the mystery was interesting, and some of the comments were really funny, but I felt like the ending wasn't much of an ending.


-The Case that Holmes Lost, Charles Todd (****)

This one isn't directly about Sherlock Holmes; instead, it is about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I thought the concept of this one was really cool, since it's about someone suing Doyle for his interpretation of how Sherlock would solve an existing case.


- The Imitator, Jan Burke (***)

I was very confused when I read this (I was very sleepy at the time - probably lost half the details in the half-asleep fog) so I don't have much to say about this one. It's about a guy who thinks himself Sherlock Holmes (the reasons for this are very sad - it has to do with a childhood trauma and wanting to make sense out of the little things in the world) who tries to explain the strange occurrences around the area. The mystery itself wasn't that hard to figure out, but I thought the characters were interesting.

- A Spot of Detection, Jacqueline Winspear (****)

This is a cute story about a boy who reads a Sherlock Holmes story and decides to put his own deductive reasoning to the test. He finds all these clues in an attempt to help the police with a case, but... (view spoiler)[ and in the end, the shots he heard and the sentences that were spoken were all part of rehearsal for a local play! (hide spoiler)].

The anthology closes with a conversation on twitter between the editor and Mary Russell, Sherlock Holmes' wife. It was pretty entertaining!

Overall, a four-star anthology.


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