This book was reviewed for San Francisco and Seattle Book Reviews
Associates of Sherlock Holmes is a collection of stories by myriad authors about various people associated with Holmes to some degree or another. Some, such as Barker, show up in only one story. Others such as Lestrade feature more often, though even Moriarty, well known as he is, is only mentioned in two Holmes stories.
Sherlock Holmes is a favourite literary (and film) character, whose stories have become comfort reading for me when stressed or sick. From canon stories, pastiche, and everything in between, I rarely pass up an opportunity to read about the Great Detective. I’m not sure I’d call myself Sherlockian, though my family disagrees. So, of course I had to check this book out!
Being from different authors, these stories were all over the board. Some kept close to Doyle’s own writing style, while others relaxed more into the author’s own. My favourites include:
Pure Swank by James Lovegrove: Clarence Barker, ostensible rival detective of Holmes and with whom he teamed up on a case with once, is more than he seems. Here, we find that Barker was one of Holmes’ Irregulars who went on to serve in the military, and who returned from service to find that Holmes had ‘died’. Unable to apprentice with Holmes, Barker sets out his own shingle as a consulting detective. Upon Holmes’ resurrection some years later, Barker approaches him about a partnership and is rebuffed, turning Barker’s admiration to jealousy. Years later, they would cross paths investigating the same case. However, Holmes would never know how tied to the case Barker already was, nor what he gained from it.
A Dormitory Haunting by Jaine Fenn: Violet Hunter, who appeared in the canon ‘Copper Beeches’ case is now the headmistress of a girls’ school. Strange things begin happening, always in the presence of a young reclusive girl named Mary Fraser. Ghostly apparitions are spotted out the attic dorm room window. Books fly off shelves in the library. We learn Mary has had a rough childhood. She lost a brother at a young age, her parents were divorced, and her mother’s health was declining. All three together could be the perfect paranormal storm, whereby Mary could be displaying psychokinetic abilities. Sickbed mutterings gave cause for alarm, though. The ending made me rethink earlier conclusions, about the long ago death of a young boy, and the more immediate events.
The Case of the Previous Tenant by Ian Edginton: Inspector Baynes was not a fellow I recalled, but I thoroughly loved this story, especially as it dealt with archaeology, a personal love of mine. Throw in a bit of science vs magic, and a cold case is closed. Baynes’ story could do with another proofing. There were a few homophone words mixed up, but easy enough to gloss over, especially since this story had a real Conan Doyle feel to it.
The Vanishing Snake by Jeffrey Thomas: the very first Holmes story I read, eons ago, was ‘The Speckled Band’ and thus was an enduring love born. This story follows up that one, adding a bit of a supernatural twist to it. Helen Stoner has returned to her late step-father’s estate to settle it and retrieve her belongings. An eerie encounter in the deep of night gives a whole new perspective to the snake and its fellow menagerie animals- the cheetah and the baboon. This tale, too, had more of a Doyle feel to it.
A Family Resemblance by Simon Butcher-Jones: Mycroft is one of my most favourite characters in just about any incarnation of Sherlock. Told from Mycroft’s point of view, as he plays chess with Moriarty’s younger brother, it is a story of an ingenious long-game murder one expects of any Holmesian mystery. This story, of them all, really felt like one of Doyle’s tales. This story, too, had a few homophone errors, notably substituting ‘metal’ for ‘mettle’, though that was the only one to really jar me from the story.
I adored these stories! Clever mysteries, all, worthy of Doyle’s legacy. Sherlock is a century and a quarter old, yet he’s become an enduring part of British (and American) culture. I have little doubt Sherlock, and so by default his associates, will continue to endure another century, and beyond. I do hope there are more such collections in the future.
????? Highly recommended if you love the Victorian-era Holmes, or enjoy mystery shorts.