Sub Title: An Anthology of Holmesian Tales Across Time and Space
Published by: Rebellion (Abaddon Books)
ISBN 13: 9781781082225
Published: October 2014
Format reviewed: eVersion from NetGalley
Publisher Site: Publisher Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
This anthology contains many short stories of the well known duo Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, but most show them as they’ve never or rarely been seen before. We see them in futurist tales with amazing technology, we see the occult left unexplained and our favourite characters shaky, and we see them in simply hard positions to be in – coming to the realisation that though they’re fantastic, sometimes they make decisions or there are results from what makes them brilliant that can be pretty horrible.
Throughout though, we see two best friends who complete each other in all kinds of times, situations and variances – whether they’re suddenly American or Watson is now female – and what strives through all to be the common factor – they belong together and they are what make each other fantastic.
This is an excellent anthology that shows just that.
“A Scandal in Hobohemia” by Jamie Wyman
More about the dynamic of the characters meeting than the case itself, we see a slightly different version of Holmes, Watson, Mrs Hudson (and possibly Irene?) in an American travelling carnival – complete with fortune-telling mystics and dwarves.
This opening piece is pretty dang excellent at throwing you into what kind of anthology this is going to be – our Holmes and Watson as we haven’t seen them before. They’re not on cozy Baker Street in their well-worned time and cobblestones, but they’re still the characters we know and love.
Also, in this piece Watson is also now a person of colour which adds an interesting dynamic thanks to the time it’s set in. I like that it ends before the case is solved – with Holmes ensnaring Watson into his new role – I mean, really, in this context, what else matters?
“Black Alice” by Kelly Hale
A young girl is accused not only of killing her beloved but also of using witchcraft. Holmes and Watson are called in as a favour, as Watson knows people of the village who think kindly of the poor girl, so she gains a bonus investigator thanks to the memory of her mum’s talent at dumplings.
This shows the Holmes we’re more used to – able to take one look at a situation before he’s practically smirking and throwing accusations around seemingly from nowhere, but of course utterly spot on and able to back it all up with a mile of evidence.
“The Adventure of the Speckled Bandana” by J. E. Cohen
Set in America in the 70s, this still somehow works. Probably because Holmes is still as punchable as he’s always been, getting Watson to try deduct a clue and then being such a smart-arse about it.
This is the kind of Holmes and Watson short I enjoy – a rushed trip for a mystery emergency, and the slow unveiling of the facts. I also like that while it’s not strictly said who it’s all about, you’re able to work it out pretty early on, and then there’s fairly gentle confirmation at the very end.
This was written with a deft hand, and it was quite enjoyable.
“The Rich Man’s Hand” by Joan De La Haye
Here the occult comes into play and we also see Lestrade make his first appearance, though he’s shown in his rougher and more dismissive way. We also see Watson snap at him a few times! Regardless they work together to determine that the body that’s turned up is the leftovers of a brutal murder that was seemingly for key pieces of the body parts – for what Holmes suspects is a magic spell or three – to gain great wealth, hence the title.
This of course means they have to deal with the person who has magical ability, so things are going to get a bit dangerous. This is where I was left waiting for the big reveal at the end – like, in the original shorts we often had the occult come into it, but then there was always a sensible reason for what had happened. Hrm.
“The Lantern Men” by Kaaron Warren
Ahh, Kaaron! Aussie and presenting us a story complete with utes – brilliant! I love Kaaron’s writing, she has an excellent, beautiful way with words and is able to easily lead you on a journey where you simply glide by, simply able to appreciate the technique.
In this, Holmes is an architect and Watson a builder, and I love the idea of Watson being on his way to being a doctor but then an unplanned pregnancy meaning he has to change carriers into something that pays immediately – how’s that for present day and realism, what with his whole ‘three-continents-Watson’ branding and all.
This one was quite creepy, as Kaaron is so talented with, and I loved the underlying threats that small country towns seem to carry in rougher areas. Love it!
“A Woman’s Place” by Emma Newman
I love futuristic fiction. Throw in a female Watson and a tale all about Mrs Hudson and I’m hooked! The writing in this one is quite sharp and nifty, keeping you turning the page eagerly for more.
How Newman handles Mrs Hudson though is really quite excellent. I won’t say anymore than I enjoyed it immensely, and the last paragraph certainly had a bit of lip-biting element to it. I would love to see this expanded into a novel!
“A Study in Scarborough” by Guy Adams
In a collection of excellent short stories let it be pointed out that this is one of the better ones – take a moment to reflect how good it must be. This is another different twist on the Holmes and Watson we know and love – modern and actual people, who are actually comedic actors portraying themselves as a Victorian detective and doctor. We see a man called Arthur Doyle come to interview the now 85-year-old Watson about his career and reflect on how he came to meet Holmes, move in with him, start a career, meet Mary Morston and so on.
It takes a nasty twist at the end which is quite effective – there’s something about reading horrible things that keeps you engaged, isn’t there? Adams is an excellent author. This is such an elegantly handled piece that just leaves you thinking ‘wow!’
“The Small World of 221B” by Ian Edginton
Another slightly spooky tale of the occult, where Watson travels to a small town to be best man at Stamford’s wedding. He suffers a hellish headache on arrival and the holly Stamford muses how odd that is – the same thing happened to him when he first arrived also! Everyone’s attire seems incredibly outdated also, and then there’s the issue that certain world events seem impossible to the towns people – entire wars have passed them by, of which they’ve never even heard of.
In this short there’s a character sure to take some by surprise – it certainly did me, though I think there are slight clues as to what’s about to happen. It’s expertly handled and even from there takes another turn into something even stranger and more fantastic. This is another short that left me thinking ‘wow!’
“The Final Conjuration” by Adrian Tchaikovsky
This one, unfortunately, just didn’t grab me. Bit disappointing after two brilliant stories!
“The Innocent Icarus” by James Lovegrove
Set in a world where powers exist for some, and some are left known as ‘Typical’, (as opposed to those known as ‘Cassandras’ (as in a mystic/precog), Icarus (power of flight), Hercules (strength), Archilles (bullets bounce off them and nothing can move them if they plant their feet, and what Watson is in this tale), and so on. Holmes is a Typical in this but doesn’t let that phase him, unlike certain others.
In this tale someone is staging murders to look like that of certain abilities in order to frame certain people who are closest to the victim. It takes Holmes and his mind along with Watson and his Archilles ability to protect Holmes from certain harm to figure it all out. This is another tale I’d love to see extended into a full novel.
“Half There/All There” by Glen Mehn
Another gritty, dark and gloomy tale, another set in America. This is now a world of drugs with seemingly everyone taking and we see Sherlock and John as they just meet and move in together.
This is a story I’d like to see expanded upon, perhaps in a novella, to explain the world and see more of it in general.
“All the Single Ladies” by Gini Koch
Another set in America, this time on school grounds where Watson is the doctor, and meets (a female) Holmes who is assisting the police with a matter that involves students from the same school.
This one is quite good with multiple suspects and a neat way of tying in Mrs Hudson and others, though we have Straude instead of Lestrade (unless Straude is another detective from the books that’s slipped my mind). This has the element of danger in a realistic, modern way. Really quite well done!
“The Patchwork Killer” by Kasey Lansdale
Another that failed to grab me, as it didn’t feature Watson and Holmes directly in their duo form.
“Parallels” by Jenni Hill
Another ‘not really Holmes and Watson’ tale as instead they’re teenage girls called Charlotte and Joan, but one’s still a brilliant sulky detective and one writes (all that’s said about her). This is all about fanfiction with Sherlock and John being famous literary characters brought back to the limelight thanks to recent adaptions.
This one is quite cute, but otherwise quite lacking in Sherlock Holmes and John Watson – more of a celebration of the friendships and fandom that comes from it. I too met my partner through Sherlock fandom so I’m willing to let this one by, but otherwise would have preferred the anthology to only contain the actual characters. This was still quite good, though.
I would recommend this anthology to anyone who likes any version of Sherlock Holmes – whether you will only read the originals or watch Jeremy Brett, or even if you’re constantly locked in online battles debating whether BBC Sherlock is better/worse than America’s Elementary. This anthology is for any Sherlock Holmes fan; there’s something here for everyone, and the writing is just that damn good.
Thank you to Rebellion for offering me a copy to review.