It’s been a while since I’ve written a post about my favorite consulting detective, but now with the return of Elementary Season 3 (!!!) on CBS and my summer reading list finally whittled down, I can turn my attention to a few books that snuck by me this summer and catch any fellow Holmes fans up on some potential new reading material.
Speaking of the Elementary television show, if you’re not familiar with it, you really missed out on an amazing second season. As with many TV shows, the writers and actors really found their groove with Season 2 that contained a mix of stand-alone mysteries and one really fun story arc that appeared here and there throughout the season and finished up with one incredible season finale involving Mycroft. A very minimal spoiler here — Season 3 has opened up with a situation that the Doyle stories never considered — Watson as a private consulting detective. That’s all I’m going to say.
The surge in interest for Sherlock Holmes stories isn’t slowing down, and a peek at upcoming books has me a bit depressed as there simply isn’t enough time in my life to read everything that grabs my attention. But I do try…
Meanwhile, as I continue my hunt for new and interesting material, here are a number of new (and not so new) titles that you might want to check out if you’re in need of a Baker Street fix.
Two Hundred And Twenty-One Baker Streets (Anthology – out now)
This short story collection contains fourteen original tales that put a new spin on the Holmes and Watson legends. Die-hard purists may have a hard time dealing with some of the material, but I had a blast reading each and every story. In one, a 1977 version of the pair seeks to discover the motives behind the robbery of a wax museum. Another ropes in Mrs. Hudson as a mother-figure/creator of sorts for both Holmes and Moriarty. Another story will be giving fans of Star Trek: TNG and the hologram Moriarty flashbacks as Holmes and Watson make a discovery about their reality. Yet another has Holmes being “conjured” as a demon in an alternate reality where wizards exist and magic makes everything possible — how can someone who eliminates “the impossible” to discover the truth work in this strange world? My favorite, however, would have to be a story with a female Holmes visiting Dr. Watson in Los Angeles at an all-women’s college that’s hosting a reality TV show. Dr. Watson is the college doctor where a number of women have been discovered murdered and he’s the prime suspect. Good stuff, and plenty more tales that carry the spirit of Holmes and Watson but offer up unique takes on the duo.
Titan Books publishes a number of Sherlock Holmes novels on a regular basis, and they fall into two “series” or formats. The first series of books are labeled “The Further Adventures of…” and tend to cast a wide net in terms of content from typical Holmes-type stories to fantastical ones involving vampires or even Martian invaders. They’re excellent reading, all of them (and a new one is due out at the end of November — The Devil’s Promise). The two novels I’m writing about here, however, fall into that second series… a more recent collection that has been slowly but surely following Holmes and Watson as World War I looms on the horizon. Written by a mix of authors, there appears to be a planned progression in the timeline.
Gods of War takes place in 1913, and England is watching carefully as the world moves closer and closer towards war. A more traditional murder mystery, Holmes and Watson are tasked with investigating the death of a young man. Multiple parties have different ideas about the motives, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised as the story culminates in one very intense confrontation. (FYI – Author James Lovegrove wrote one of other books in this Holmes/Watson series, The Stuff of Nightmares, that I absolutely loved and reviewed here.)
The other (and more recent) release is The Spirit Box by George Mann. As London is under attack by German zeppelins, Holmes and Watson must investigate three unusual suicides that are linked to a mysterious device with possibly supernatural capabilities. The story itself stands on its own as a fun romp with Holmes and Watson, but just the fact that Mann chose to bring in some familiar characters from his own Newbury & Hobbes stories made me grin ear-to-ear. You don’t have to know anything about Mann’s other series, but if you are a fan… you’re going to love the name dropping and crossed-paths presented here. (Mann gave fans a glimpse of Newbury and Hobbes crossing paths with Holmes and Watson in a short story from his The Casebook of Newbury & Hobbes, and it’s nice to see him have some fun again with mixing these two sets of investigators.)
Note: The next book in this series is titled Sherlock Holmes: The Thinking Engine, also written by James Lovegrove and scheduled for an Aug 2015 release.)
One of my absolutely favorite go-to places for high-quality and entertaining Sherlock Holmes stories is MX Publishing. Honestly, if I started reading a book a week today, I’d probably never catch up with their continually expanding catalog of Sherlock stories. One of MX Publishing’s newest series of Sherlock Holmes takes the traditional Doyle short stories and injects almost a dozen LEGO-infused images — what a great way to introduce young readers to Sherlock!
Scattered throughout each of the 25-30 page books are a number of scenes taken from the Paget illustrations found in the original stories and given life using LEGO minfigures. The designs are created by P. James Macaluso Jr, and he explains in a Note opening each book his love of Sherlock and LEGO.
In addition to these three titles, MX Publishing has released three more — The Man With The Twisted Lip, The Five Orange Pips, and The Bosome Valley Mystery. I don’t know if this concludes the LEGO/Holmes mashup books, but I sincerely hope not… I’ve got a 7-year-old who is really starting to enjoy reading for pleasure, and I cannot wait to introduce him to my favorite detective.
The Conan Doyle Notes: The Secret of Jack the Ripper by Diane Gilbert Madsen (out now)
Okay, not a traditional Holmes and Watson tale. As in… No Holmes… and no Watson. This story is all about one question — given that Jack the Ripper was on the prowl at the same time that Arthur Conan Doyle was having such success with his fictional detective, what would Conan Doyle have thought (or possibly done) about this real world case? Here’s the thing — it may not be a Holmes & Watson tale, but I was totally sucked in. Madsen makes a VERY good case that Doyle probably DID get involved and may very well have even had his own suspect identified.
The story is a fictional tale of a lost Conan Doyle diary that is rumored to contain the writer’s notes and research on Jack the Ripper. When the diary is stolen, insurance investigator DD McGil begins her own investigation while being pursued and having her life threatened. It’s speculative, of course, but Madsen provides some outstanding references used as she researched the story… and it does make you wonder. All in all, a very fun read.
Links to some previous Sherlock Holmes posts: