The game is afoot: and by game, I mean the mystery of who exactly hid my copy of Encounter of Sherlock Holmes under the sofa. The answer, to be fair, is probably me, but still… that’s my excuse for reviewing this collection such a ridiculously long time after I started reading it. It vanished! But now I have it back in my grasp.
I’ve just cycled through a few reviews online, and it seems to have divided loyalties. Plenty of reviews absolutely loved it. The ones that hated it objected mainly to the mashing of the genres within, and to the frequent popping up of other characters (be that other literary figures, or characters from the writers own work.) To lay the cards on the table: I’m not a Holmes purist, and I couldn’t give a toss about about other characters being thrown in the mix, or whether this is Sherlocking-sci-fi-steampunk-horror-trifle. The Loss of Chapter Twenty-Oneby Mark Hodder. I thoroughly enjoyed the opening story, although I read it without having a clue that Burton and Swinburne are his own characters. I know a fair few people who are particularly enamoured with Hodder, and this gives me good reason to read a little bit more of his. Plus, the Chapter Twenty-One itself (a censored anthropological study that went unpublished because of its gay content) intrigues me. Sherlock Holmes and the Indelicate Widow by Mags L. Halliday is a straight up detective story on a necropolis railway. The mystery is not particularly comfounding but is satisfyingly melodramatic, making for a greatly enjoyable story. The Demon Slashers of Seven Sisters by Cavan Scott is fast-paced, witty and was the only detective story in the pack that I didn’t guess the ending to. The Post-Modern Prometheus by Nick Kyme was a great idea that would make a great novel, but packs in too quick a run-down of gothic literary cameos to function as either a short story or a mystery. Mrs Hudson at the Christmas Hotel by Paul Magrs It’s not my favourite Paul Magrs story, but it’s still a balmy little adventure through Mrs Hudson’s holiday to Whitby. Something like Coronation Street meets Macbeth, and it definitely stands out amongst some of the more starchily Victorian entries. A little bit of Magrsian whimsy never goes amiss. The Case of the Night Crawler by George Mann I have been recommended Newbury and Hobbs by several people. On the strength of this story I’d like them, but at this point in the book I was starting to wonder if anyone would come up with a Sherlockian mystery that would actually confound me. For all that, it was great to have some out-and-out steampunk, complete with tentacled submersile… The Adventure of the Locked Carriage by Stuart Douglas is the cleverest mystery by far (although did no-one think to check the carriage next door?). Great story. The Tragic Affair of the Martian Ambassador by Eric Brown. The weakest story, sadly–like reading the notes for a story, rather than the story itself, with the ‘mystery’ hanging on an insubstantial clue. The Adventures of the Swaddled Railwayman by Richard Dinnick is back on solid ground, with a decent mystery hooked on a nice creepy concept. For some reason, I feel this story would make a great graphic novel. The Pennyroyal Society by Kelly Hale. The only female writer in the book! Other reviews complained this was tubthumping an agenda, and it’s true that the social issue at hand is quite clear. Nevertheless, it’s entertaining, fascinating and well-written. Thumbs up. The Persian Slipper by Steve Lockley is a locked room mystery. I didn’t guess the ending, but I hadn’t put much thought into it, actually. Didn’t grip me, but I can’t really find a fault in the story. The Property of a Thief by Mark Wright is great! I’ve never read Raffles, but I know enough to get the point. It’s only flaw is the lack of suspense that arises from knowing who Raffles is–in fact, I over-thought it to the point that I thought that Raffles might in fact be Manders, and vice versa. Woman’s Work by David Barnett is by far the highlight of the book; a clever rewrite of the Blue Carbuncle in which Mrs Hudson does all the heavy lifting and deducing, whilst Holmes and Watson take cocaine, and congratulate themselves on solving the mystery. Sent me running out to find more stuff by David Barnett. The Fallen Financier by James Lovegrove Rounded off by a sterling story in full Sherlock tradition. It’s not particularly confounding, but after reading this I’m starting to wonder if the original stories are quite as perplexing as I remember them?