10.31.2011

Review: A Study in Sherlock - Stories Inspire by the Holmes Canon - ed. by Laurie R. King and Leslie S Klinger

A Study in Sherlock
Stories Inspired by
the Sherlock Holmes Canon
ed. by Laurie R. King &
Leslie S. Klinger
October 25, 2011
Bantam Dell
I've often discussed both the merits and the foibles of books based on Jane Austen's work. Hop on over to Austenprose and you'll find review after review of Austen sequels or parallels (i.e. Pamela Aiden's books or Abigail Reynolds') as well as a new collection (edited by Austenprose blogger Laurel Ann Nattress) of Austen-inspired stories called Jane Austen Made Me Do It. I think, given the time and means to do the research, one could find that any author with a real canon probably has a similar following. That's where this book comes in.

A Study in Sherlock, edited in part by Laurie R. King (the author who brought us the Miss Mary Russell series) is a sixteen-story collection inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's most astute detective.

Some of these take place within the confines of the Holmes universe (i.e. in between Doyle stories). One of these was a "lost" story called "The Startling Events in the Electrified City," about Holmes and Watson's attendance at the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo in 1901, by Thomas Perry. Others are residents of a universe similar to our own whose only difference is an accepted belief in Holmes as a flesh-and-blood person, one of which is "As to 'An Exact Knowledge of London'" which poses the idea of Watson, Holmes and their enemies living on, even today, waging a silent war.

Why, yes, that IS Frank Langella you've
spotted nearest Sherlock's nose!
The rest of the stories founded in the sordid reality that we all (or, at least, most of us) call home. The last story in the collection is of that persuasion: "A Spot of Detection" by Jacqueline Winspear is about a little boy who, on his way home with the measles, believes himself to have witnessed a crime. He stays in bed for days, during which time his mother and aunt read him the Sherlock Holmes canon, which fuels his belief and his need to solve the mystery of the crime himself.

Each of the stories in the collection is appropriately methodical while also providing a necessary dose of whimsy. And no one, I think, is better at that than Neil Gaiman, whose "The Case of Death and Honey" manages to cross yet another plane into a hint of the supernatural. As to whether these stories are true to Holmes and to Doyle, that's difficult for me to say - I must confess I've never actually read the Holmes Canon.

However, it did make me wish I had read it. Moved the canon up on my To-Be-Read pile. I will say, though, being familiar with Holmes only on the basest terms (I've watched "Wishbone" and "The Great Mouse Detective") did not put me at any disadvantage - I wasn't left behind in the mud because I missed a reference here or there. For that reason, I think it could actually make a great introduction to it all.

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