Sunday, September 6, 2015

Summer Reading 2015 Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories


I've been a Sherlock Holmes fan since I read my first Sir Arthur Conan Doyle story. Over the years I have read several collections of stories by other authors, including Sherlock Homes in Orbitand A Study in Sherlock. But this anthology edited by Otto Penzler certainly deserves the name, The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes. The title is fitting not only due to the size (800 pages of Holmesian reading pleasure), but also because of the variety of authors included. From stories by Doyle himself, contemporaries like James M. Barrie, Americans such as Bret Harte, SciFi writers such as Poul Anderson, and current writers like Neil Gaiman, Laurie King, and Stephen King (no relation) - we are treated to adventures in London, the U.S., and even on Mars. 

Our hero faces adversaries such as smugglers, murderers, thieves, and even greedy authors who refuse to share "the swag" they have earned writing about Holmes. Some of the stories are deliberate parodies that feature caricatures of Holmes and Watson floundering in the face of sensational journalists, while the next may be such a clever pastiche that Doyle himself could not have written a more convincing tale. One of the more humorous aspects is the astounding variety of names these pseudo-Holmes are given: Herlock Shomes, Sheerluck Combs, Hemlock Jones, Shamrock Jolnes, Solar Pons, Mr. Mycroft, Sherlaw Kombs, among others. And Watson has his own aliases - Whatson, Plotsam, Flotsam, Hotsam, Silchester, Parker... 

At times Holmes shares the story with other notable characters (fictional or real), such as Raffles the gentleman jewel thief or Arthur Conan Doyle. The Devil tries to tempt him, Jehovah wants his help in tracking down missing patriarchs in the afterlife, and he even solves the case of the Mary Celeste. Whatever may happen in each story, Mr. Penzler sets the scene by giving the credentials and the time period of the author, other works published, and what the author was/is particularly noted for in his/her career. Some contributors were scholars, editors, authors, humorists, actors, professors, and representatives of other careers, but they all have Holmes in common. 

I have thoroughly enjoyed the stories and pitting myself against the great detective in trying to solve each mystery. That enjoyment has been augmented by marveling at the array of tales and their creators from the first appearance of Holmes until now. This is a must read for any Holmes fan and will be taking up a large chunk of shelf space in many collections.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through edelweiss.

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