I doubt there will ever be an end to the demand for new Sherlock Holmes stories. After all, Arthur Conan Doyle tried to kill off Sherlock, yet public outcry brought him back despite The Great Hiatus–itself a source for new stories. There’s probably a Holmes-inspired collection released every month of the year. Only a few are successful. One of the most successful I have read recently is Lyndsay Faye’s fifteen new Holmes stories in The Whole Art of Detection.
Some might think it is easier to write a story with already developed characters and settings, but that is not true. There is the Sherlockian canon to deal with and the need to keep the characters in character, so to speak. Many make caricatures, their Holmes so frequently explaining his elementary deductions of every minor thing that he scarcely has time to detect. Some reject the canon and place Holmes in the present, the future. Holmes gets married, becomes a woman, has a gay relationship with Watson and jets off to Mars. It’s all very inventive, but it’s not Holmes. Faye, though, delivers.
The Whole Art of Detection is an outstanding collection of Holmes short stories. We have the real Holmes at different stages in his career. The book is in four sections: Before Baker Street, The Early Years, The Return, and The Later Years. The stories are dated, so you can see where the fall within the canon. One story is even told in within the time frame of The Hound of the Baskervilles, Holmes seeing Watson off with Lord Baskerville, clearing up a small mystery while preparing to go to the Hound, so to speak. Most of the narratives are Watson’s stories for The Strand or for future reference, though a few are dashed off by Holmes himself, notes for his diary written when Watson was away for one reason or another.
The stories are varied. Some of the mysteries are relatively minor in importance, though never to the people involved, while others involve murder and espionage. It is interesting to see stories from different times in the Holmes-Watson relationship and how that relationship evolved. Watson in the later years is far more acerbic, taking, as he says, “diminishing pleasure in asking questions that will go unanswered.” The book is full of clever quips and Holmes is ever ready with a dose of fond condescension.
The writing is excellent and it is enjoyable to note the contrast between Holmes more matter of fact prose and Watson’s more floridly descriptive writing. Even if there were no chapter titles to inform you of the author, it would quickly be obvious. In all, it’s quite a feat, fifteen stories that are original and new, yet sound as though they came right out of the canon. Plus, there is a bonus, an introduction to the inspiration for Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel. If you love Sherlock Holmes and enjoy new cases from new authors, you can’t go wrong with The Whole Art of Detection.
The Whole Art of Detection will be released March 5, 2017. I received an advance e-galley from the publisher through NetGalley.