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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Sherlock Holmes in America

So many anthologies, so little time.

That’s why I don’t pick up every collection of Sherlock Holmes pastiches. But when I see one in a used-book store and I like the theme, it’s hard to resist. And I usually don’t.

And so Sherlock Holmesin America, edited by Martin H. Greenberg, Jon L. Lellenberg, and Daniel Stashower has made its way onto my crowded Sherlockian bookshelves six years after publication. And what a find!

The variety in these stories does not extend to their quality, which varies only slightly from good to great. And, of course, they are all about Sherlock Holmes in America – in one way or another. 

Lyndsay Faye’s “The Case of Colonel Warburton’s Madness” has a plot that rings true. Robert Pohle’s “The Flowers of Utah” is an imaginative spin on A Study in Scarlet. “The Adventure of the Coughing Dentist,” by the prolific Loren D. Estleman, features the legendary Doc Holliday and terrific dialogue.

In “The Seven Walnuts,” Daniel Stashower gives us a dandy story about Harry Houdini, hero of three Stashower novels. But Holmes is there only in spirit – Houdini quotes him constantly. Another well-known mystery writer, Carolyn Wheat, “The Case of the Rival Queens” – the queens being bees.

Michael Wash’s excellent Holmes-narrated tale, “The Song at Twilight,” delivered in suitably hard-boiled prose, explores the backstory of “His Last Bow” in a way that makes it a kind of sequel to The Valley of Fear. This is a surprising story, and utterly compelling.

The collection closes with some appropriate non-fiction – an article by Christopher Redmond summarizing Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1894 tour of America, followed by excerpts from the speech ACD gave 34 times in two months. In this volume the speech is appropriately titled “The Romance of America.”

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