Over the 2014 holiday and into the new year, I’ve enjoyed catching up on a lot of my reading. One stack that I always look forward to whittling down is my stack of Sherlock Holmes books. Below you’ll find some short summaries of a few Sherlock-related books that I finished and enjoyed, and am happy to recommend to other fans.
The Sherlock Holmes Companion (Aurum Press)
The sheer volume of stories, movies, TV shows, comic books, and more related to Sherlock Holmes can easily overwhelm anyone just discovering Arthur Conan Doyle’s consulting detective. Fortunately, books like Sherlock Holmes Companion exist to help both fans and newcomers navigate it all. This one is a perfect mix of just the right amount of history and story summaries, with a few interviews tossed in for good measure.
What does this one get right that others miss? First, all four novels and all 56 short stories are covered in single-page summaries that do NOT give away the solutions. These summaries are spread throughout the book and divided up with fun essays on the author and his major characters, and interviews with both Sherlock experts and actors and writers who have been involved in furthering Holmes’s adventures. The book also contains a number of enjoyable bits of artwork, photos, movie posters, paintings, play bills, and more, plenty to keep fans smiling.
Some of my favorite bits include a background on Dr. Joseph Bell, the man on whom Conan Doyle stated he based the logical observation skills of Holmes’s character. I also enjoyed the six-page interview with Mark Gattis, co-creator of BBC’s Sherlock and the actor who portrays Mycroft Holmes. (Gattis’s Mycroft is my absolute favorite character from the BBC show.)
The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz (Mulholland Press)
This book came out in 2011 and was labeled as having been authorized by the Conan Doyle Estate. It didn’t slip under my radar… I had intended to pick up a copy and read it, but somehow it managed to get pushed back and back. What a huge mistake I made!
Narrated by Dr. John Watson, it’s a tale that takes place before The Final Problem (when Holmes and Moriarty take the dive over Reichenbach Falls), but a tale that was to be held back by Watson for a period of 100 years due to its sensationalistic nature and the damage it could have done to the reputation of many high-ranking individuals.
What is offered up to readers are really two mysteries — Watson calls them The Man in the Flat Cap and The House of Silk. What readers get is a 294-page adventure that does not let up from page 1. Horowitz was the right pick by the Estate — his writing style (that is, the narration style of the fictional Watson) is perfect. I really do wonder if any readers other than those extremely familiar with the canon would even pick up on the fact that the story wasn’t published in The Strand some 100 years ago! The dialogue, the back-and-forth between Holmes and Watson, the chase scenes… all have a familiarity to them.
The House of Silk is one of the more dark and troubling Holmes tales, but fans are sure to enjoy it. My only regret is it took me over three years to return to the story and finish it. (And the reason for my hunting it down and reading it was due to a completely new book release…)
Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz (HarperCollins)
Seeing this on the shelf at B&N last week was one great surprise. I am such a HUGE Moriarty fan — given that he was only in two of Conan Doyle’s tales, that hasn’t stopped numerous writers from visiting Holmes’s most famous nemesis, and I’m always happy to read a new tale of Holmes vs. Moriarty. (This book is also authorized by the Conan Doyle Estate, and is what triggered my memory that I’d missed reading Horowitz’s previous Holmes novel, The House of Silk.)
From page 1, however, readers are in for a bit of a shock. This isn’t a traditional Holmes/Watson tale. You see, this story picks up a day or so after Moriarty and Holmes have their fight at Reichenbach Falls and take the tumble over the edge. Moriarty is dead. His body is being examined by two individuals — Athelney Jones, a Scotland Yard inspector that Holmes fans will recognize from Conan Doyle’s The Sign of Four novel. The other is Frederick Chase, a Pinkerton agent from the US sent to follow an individual who could be called Moriarty’s equal in the USA for coordinating criminal activity.
With Moriarty dead, the question is whether this American criminal mastermind, Clarence Devereaux, will be able to take over Moriarty’s organization and now commit crimes on two sides of the Atlantic? Chase is determined to catch Devereaux, and enlists the aid of Jones to find this criminal that no one can identify.
Inspector Jones has his own reasons for wanting to assist Chase. Since his embarrassment (by Watson) from the events documented in The Sign of Four, Jones refocused his duties as a Scotland Yard detective by studying every aspect of Sherlock Holmes’s methods. Jones surprises Chase by using the same types of deductive reasoning to make headway into discovering members of Devereaux’s syndicate and their crimes.
Horowitz has done an impressive job of creating a Holmes and Watson tale… without Holmes and without Watson. You may be wondering just why you should be reading this book if it lacks Holmes and Watson, and I’ll tell you this — trust Horowitz and trust the Conan Doyle Estate. The book will provide rewards to true fans.
Mr. Horowitz — well done, sir. I was grinning ear to ear after completing the story. Well done.
The Sherlockian by Graham Moore (Twelve)
This is another book that’s not new — released in 2010, this one somehow sneaked by me. I owe my neighbor, a fellow Sherlock fan, a big thank you for putting me on to it. (Thanks, Brett!)
This is not a Holmes/Watson tale. This story follows Sherlock Holmes expert Harold White, as he uncovers a mystery involving a long-lost journal belong to Arthur Conan Doyle. What I found most interesting about this story is how well Moore used historical facts to supplement a fictional tale — where true mysteries exist regarding Doyle and his famous detective, Moore has created a fun mystery that moves back and forth, from modern day to 1893 when Doyle killed off Sherlock.
Moore has created a fictional account of Doyle’s activities in the years between when he killed off Holmes and when he brought the detective back from the dead. What’s interesting is that so much of this fictional account is based on real information from journals and other sources that verify what Doyle was doing during this period — this included helping out Scotland Yard with some actual real-life mysteries.
As a long-time Sherlock Holmes fan, the book just hit home. It pokes lightly at those of us who often set aside reality and pretend that Watson was a real person who documented his friend’s adventures. Following along as White (with his own version of Watson, journalist Sarah, tagging along as he chases clues from the US to London to the Swiss Alps and a few other locales) begins to piece together the evidence to a murder mystery is a fun ride not to be missed.
Some Sherlock-related items to watch for:
* From Titan Books comes some great news for fans of the CBS Elementary TV show — a new series of books based on the modern-day New York setting are expected to start this year. As a HUGE fan of the show and cast, I’m definitely looking forward to this new series. The first book, Elementary: The Ghost Line, will be out in February 2015.
* And speaking of Titan Books and Sherlock Holmes, the publisher is on a roll — also expected in late 2015 is a new book titled Mycroft. This book is written by self-professed Holmes fan and former NBA player, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Co-Authored with Anna Waterhouse, the book will focus on Sherlock’s older brother, a character who has received much more interest in previous years due to the success of the BBC Sherlock TV show and co-creator’s Mark Gatiss’s updated portray of the man.
* If you haven’t been watching CBS show Elementary, you are missing out! The show is definitely evolving, and that’s saying a lot given the New York background and modern day setting. While some fans were questioning the decision to cast Lucy Liu as Joan Watson, there is no doubt that she has made this role her own. Season 3 is almost half done, and the first half has been enjoyable watching Joan Watson working as a consulting detective on her own. Jonny Lee Miller continues to just NAIL the role of Sherlock, and the idiosyncrasies, speech patterns, and even the maturity of the character over two-and-a-half seasons are a credit to the actor. I haven’t been able to get any confirmation of a Season 4, but there are a lot of mentions of syndication being a good reason CBS will likely renew it.
* I haven’t heard any conflicting news about the BBC Christmas 2015 Sherlock special. Season 4 is still being announced as coming in 2016, so Cumberbatch/Freeman fans are in for a lengthy wait to see how that surprise Season 3 ending resolves.
My other Sherlock Holmes-related posts:
Sherlock Holmes Book Collection Review
Sherlock Holmes Fans (Young and Old), Rejoice! New Books and DVDs!
Happy Birthday, Sherlock! (But We Get the Gifts…)
Sherlock Holmes Upgraded – The Steampunk Holmes Enhanced Book
A Sherlock Holmes Book Review – X2!
Sherlock Holmes and the Never Ending Adventures
Catch Every Appearance of Sherlock Holmes On Screen