Book Review: The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: edited by John Joseph Adams (Four Stars)

19386511Book Review: The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, edited by John Joseph Adams

(Four Stars)

“Speculations about the mental state of suspects are rarely so fruitful as concentration on the salient facts of the case.”

This anthology breaks the curse of mediocrity which bedevils the category. Worth reading to see how accomplished authors of various genres breathe new life into the familiar tropes of the classic detective duo.

“I wish you all the happiness you deserve.”

Each author puts his or her spin on Holmes, of course, but some manage to turn Holmes and Victorian England upside down. Often to entertaining effect. We find Holmes as a famous serial killer, homosexual, virgin, mystic, and a concert violinist, not to mention a beekeeper. Confronting dinosaurs and aliens, not to mention supernatural horrors.

“…came to precisely the same condition you had—that Moriarty and I had plunged to our deaths.” “But that conclusion turned out to be wrong.” “No … it turned out to be unacceptable.”

Many cases revolve around the “missing years” of Holmes’ supposed death at Reichenbach Falls. Others meld in the famous and infamous characters of that day, fictional and factual. A few of these introduce jarringly modern, dissonant notes.

“We believe we know a great lot, with our instruments and things, but I was old enough then to believe we don’t know half as much as we think we do, and old enough now to believe we never will.”

Non sequiturs abound: “in that unmapped and unexplored region northwest of Tibet … we slipped up the Irrawddy by night.” “taken by the steamship Freisland from …the Venetian isle of Murano to Africa.” “And they would evolve in that direction, according to the principle of Darwin. Succeeding generations would ….” “It was the autumn of 1918, when my medical practice was burgeoning on account of casualties from the recent war.” “And we rode west, away from the setting sun.”

“It can’t make things any worse.” “If there’s one thing the study of history has taught us, it is that things can always get worse.”