This is the second novel by Mr. Adams featuring Sherlock Holmes. His earlier effort was “Sherlock Holmes: The Breath of God,” in which Aleister Crowley and several “supernatural investigators” join Holmes in fending off evil. This new book also takes its inspiration from the popular fiction of the late Nineteenth Century, this time from H. G. Wells’s “The Island of Dr. Moreau.” It seems that someone is carrying on with the animal experiments of Dr. Moreau into the beginning of the Twentieth Century. At Mycroft’s request, Sherlock turns to a team of 19th Century fictional scientists to uncover this evil. Scientists and adventurers of all sorts pop up at the oddest moments and places.
My main problem with the book stemmed from the 19th Century science at the bottom of it. Wells’ works, while not being exactly prophetic, have usually been based on solid advances in science of one sort or another. His “Doctor Moreau,” unfortunately, did not point to a glorious or even a practical future. Serums and extracts generally have no effect at the level of detail required for effective multi-generic crosses and mixes. The nature of the DNA control of growth and aging still remain beyond our science more than a hundred years later even though glimmers are appearing. On that basis, I found the required “willing suspension of disbelief” to be very hard-sought.
Once the science details are out of the way, the mystery becomes a good deal more interesting. Some unknown person is duplicating Dr. Moreau’s work somewhere in London’s sewers. Corpses are turning up in various states of dismemberment (mostly ‘fine’) and no-one seems exempt. Shopkeepers, gentlemen, ladies of the evening and beggars all show up in parts at odd locations. The wear on the bodies is especially upsetting as it all seems to result from claws and fangs, not the usual knives and blunt objects. Holmes enlists Professor Challenger to join him on a hunt for one of the perpetrators and they succeed.
What (or who) they capture leads only to more questions and confusion. The only sure result is that they know that more is happening than night terrors. The reasons and the criminal remain hidden, so an all-out attack on his ‘laboratory’ must be conducted. In the meantime, the perpetrator leads an expedition, in disguise, to parliament and captures the Prime Minister. At this point the Government become perturbed and Mycroft receives orders to “DO SOMETHING!”
The Government raid proceeds, with the long-foreseen double and triple-crosses and Watson and Shinwell Johnson are wounded, Holmes is captured and the Prime Minister slaughtered, but, otherwise, all turns out well(?) The questions left over provide a good deal of food for thought, while the actual slaughter and horrors are but a pale reflection of the coming “War to end all Wars.” It all just goes to show that humans can be more beastly than ANY animals when they apply themselves.
The overall quality of the book is good. If it were not for my personal issues with the main subject, I would have enjoyed it much more, but that is simply a matter of personal taste and does not reflect on the skill or invention of the author. It presents a fine adventure with Holmes being even more typically himself than in most other Sherlockian fiction. At one point, he is quoted as saying about Society Notes, “I listen, I just do not always care!”
"This book is an anthology of an even dozen short stories and novellas by a variety of authors. “The Mystery of Ogham Manor” is a novella by Stan Trybulski in which Holmes unmasks a serial killer with an international reputation. Magda Jozsa’s short story, “The Dentist,” tells of a murder brotherhood uncovered by Dr. Watson and brought to justice by Holmes. In “The Fury,” a short story by Lyn McConchie, we revisit King’s Pyland Stables and Colonel Ross, owner of Silver Blaze. A gypsy stable hand who tends a difficult horse has gone missing and is urgently needed to calm the horse before a race. In “Death and No Consequences,” a short story by Richard K. Tobin, Holmes and Watson are asked by the Royal Family to investigate a gruesome murder.
John L. French’s short story, “Murder at the Diogenes Club,” is an onion. In it, layers of truth and falsehood are stripped away, one after another, to reveal the true events behind a “smash and grab” set of murders. Ralph E. Vaughan’s short story, “The Adventure of the Night Hunter,” tells of Sherlock and (his cousin?) Professor Challenger joining forces to track a new hunter who has declared a territory in the world’s largest city. “The Adventure of the Devil’s Father,” a short story by Morris Hershman, tells the tale of “Colonel Warburton’s madness” as cited in “The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb.” Inspector Lestrade introduces Holmes and Watson to “…the card scandal at the Nonpareil Club,” as cited in “The Hound of the Baskervilles” in Marvin Kaye’s short story “A Memo from Inspector Lestrade.”
“The Button Box,” a short story by Lyn McConchie, Brings Hilton Soames, from “The Adventure of the Three Students” back into Holmes and Watson’s lives. His grandmother’s button box had been stolen from her in broad daylight near a friend’s house. “Sherlock Holmes – Stymied” is a short story by Gary Lovisi in which Dr. Watson introduces Holmes to golf and to some of its odder rules. “Bad Habits” by Magda Jozsa is a novella that involves Holmes and Watson in a complex plot through a letter from a nun. “Irene and the Old Detective” is a short story by Richard L. Kellogg that tells of Holmes in retirement giving advice to a schoolgirl on studying.
These tales allowed me to revisit some old favorites and to meet several writers new to me. All were well-written and imaginative and several presented new slants on Untold Tales cited in the Canon. Surprisingly, only one writer seemed to have trouble with the contrasts between British and American English usage. I recall that World War II meetings were plagued by the opposite meanings of “tabling” an item of discussion used by the US and the UK staff. One of the authors here cites Holmes as using this term in the American sense fifty years before that difference became a problem. The Acknowledgement segment of the book gives the publishing history of the tales, telling where three were published previously. I happen to be familiar with some of the others, through personal communications and it was good to see them finally in print.”
This book is part of series by the author called “The Starship UK” series. These books are set in a distant future when humanity have abandoned the Earth, due to over-pollution and depleted resources and, instead, live in a widely dispersed group of large city-starships in which they search for unoccupied planets to settle. The tales of Sherlock Holmes occur in or near to “Starship UK,” the main residence of descendants of the population of the United Kingdom.
The author specializes in science fiction, so all of the stories in this series are set in a distant future. The eight tales included in this volume reprise, in loose fashion, eight of the Canonical tales. Sherlockians will recognize the sources of these events and will find the adaptation of the original tales into this odd future to be imaginatively done.
As a long-time science fiction fan, I found the author’s approach to the scientific side of his tales somewhat less than satisfactory. I was constantly irritated by his very confusing use of galaxy and system interchangeably. Further, there was no explanation of the faster than light technology in use or of any methods to avoid light speed travel limitations. Further, the future technology in use was surprisingly limited and the society was much simpler than one would expect from the complexity required to support the history provided. There were also a number of spelling and grammar errors that need attention.
The tales included all present interesting adaptations of the elements of Canonical tales into a future setting. It goes without saying that the details of events in this collection differ widely from those originally published. Most adaptations are both amusing and ingenious.
This is the first collection of Sherlockian tales from this author. It includes eight novellas and two short stories as well as an explanation of the source of the stories.
“The Adventure of the Least Winning Woman,” is not to be confused with “…the most winning woman…” cited in The Sign of Four. It describes an interesting case of blackmail and appropriation of a business for criminal purposes. In “The Adventure of the Treacherous Tea,” Holmes is engaged by a man arrested for murder who escaped from the police simply to flee to Holmes to plead with him to look into his arrest. “The Singular Affair at Sissinghurst Castle” brings Holmes and Watson face-to-face with another local legend of historic evil. This one seems to have been used by a sharp business practitioner.
“The Adventure of the Second Chance” is a short story that describes Holmes’ dealings with the family of a man in Professor Moriarty’s employ. It begins during ”Silver Blaze” and concludes in 1901 with an execution. “The Affair of the Brother’s Request” is another tale that covers decades in time. It cites a separate tale of Holmes’ adventures in the post-Civil-War Southern USA and concludes with a trip to the area by Holmes and Watson after WW-I. “The Adventure of the Madman’s Ceremony” occurs during the same trip by Holmes and Watson after WW-I and involves some chance-met acquaintances. “The Haunting of Sutton House” tells two tales. One is yet another use of legends for profit that Holmes wrecks and the other is a tale of family wrangling that arises from insanity.
“The Adventure of the Missing Missing Link” tells of Holmes and Watson’s involvement in the Piltdown discovery. It also tells of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s involvement and of some of the principals as well. “The Adventure of the Other Brother” goes into some depth in describing the other members of the Holmes family as well as their relations and pseudonyms over the years. Two well-known detective duos are identified and related to each other in roundabout fashion. The final item is titled “Postscript: Two Letters.” It provides some continuity and explanation for the sources of these tales.
This collection is difficult to describe. This is clearly a different Holmes and Watson than the characters we see in the Canon. This Watson is sensible, curious and sensitive while this Holmes is human and caring. The explanation, we are told, is that these are not tales prepared by Watson for publication, but rather are tales prepared by the editor from notes taken by Watson, either as the events occurred or shortly thereafter. These are darker and more realistic tales than we see in the Canon. Here criminals are filled with fear and hatred and pride. Victims are afraid and confused and distracted and events often occur at random, not as part of a plan. The stories are interesting and the Holmes and Watson we meet are also interesting, if not the same as their Canonical counterparts.
"This is the eleventh volume in the author’s “Mary Russell” series. It is an attempt at humor and adventure where neither Mary nor Sherlock need to save the world, nor even the British Empire. Mary is maneuvered by Sherlock, Lestrade and Mycroft into applying for a secretary/assistant position with a British film producer who is planning on making a movie about pirates. This producer is seen by His Majesty’s Government as Great Britain’s answer to the industry dominance of the American film studios, so his effort must be successful. The fact that certain nefarious transactions seem to dog the footsteps of this producer’s so-far-successful efforts is really of no consequence to his investors (Royal, noble and otherwise), but they do want an official presence to watch out for their interests.
Mary, with her Oxford degree and her multiple Language skills, is a godsend to the producer, whose current assistant has gone missing, as he is planning on filming at locations in the Mediterranean. Eventually she and the ‘cast and crew’ head off to Portugal to begin their travels. There they find an ideal pirate ship and acquire a crew of pseudo-pirates to man it. From there it is ‘off to Morocco’ to begin filming their epic.
Of course, nothing ever goes smoothly, so Mary is faced with problems ranging from Languages and seasickness to oversexed cast and crew. She keeps her knowledge of Arabic to herself and so hears more than people intend. The pirates they hired begin to seem more and more real as the ideal pirate ship looks less and less ideal. The complexities grow even faster than the budget and more and more secrets pop out of the woodwork.
As a comedy, the effort falls a bit flat. Many of the situations are amusing, but they do not sing of silliness or resound with offstage laughter. It all seems a bit strained and no one seems happy, ever. Everyone seems to be taking things very seriously and yet no one seems really interested in the people around them. It just reads like a tiresome task that Mary must perform. Nothing is fun, not even the ending, with Mary asked to star in a new picture based on Byron’s “Corsair” titled “Pirate Queen.”
As an adventure, this book is interesting. It has lots of thrills and realistic menaces. Much of the Nineteenth Century lurks in out-of-the-way corners of the world, even after The War to end all Wars. The slave trade, both white and otherwise, remains active and Piracy is still profitable if performed discretely. However, the pirates can learn as well as anyone else and the opportunities in this modern world can be dazzling if a bit of imagination is applied. Unfortunately, the author has not really applied herself to creating her trademark intriguing characters. She has produced a variety of personages, but most are not quite filled out or believable. This book is just not up to her usual standard.”
Sherlock Holmes and the Portsmouth Mystery is the only Sherlockian book that I know of by this author, a former ‘Crusher,’ in the parlance of ‘The Andrew.’ Jack Coggan started as a ‘yard boy’ at Portsmouth in 1942 and retired in 1983 with only a term of service in the Navy at War’s end to break his career as a ‘yard dog.’ The book is interesting, colorful and lively. It smells of paint and oil and welding and it rings with the sounds of ship building and repair. It includes scenes from the dives and the chandlers, from battleships and coaling barges and the homes of workmen as well as the offices of Admirals.
Holmes and Watson are summoned to the office of the Minister of the Navy and asked to investigate the theft of the plans for a new battleship, to be called “HMS Dreadnought.” This ship marked the coming of age of the battleship as it was the first “all big gun” ship and the ancestor of all battleships to follow. It combined steam turbines for speed with heavy armour and a fearsome main battery and it changed the ‘ironclad’ Navy into the modern Navy. Only the arrival of the Aircraft Carrier replaced this type of battleship as the queen of the fleet.
Holmes and Watson are sent to Portsmouth, to ‘Pompey’ the main base of the Royal Navy, with directions to find the plans and to capture the thieves. They find much more and must look into nooks and crannies unfamiliar to the Admiralty to complete their task. As the story progresses, side issues intrude and other villains are identified and thwarted, but the main character remains elusive and his plans are intricate and well-laid.
The characters, the settings and the problems are unique. The book provides a vivid window into the world of Nineteenth Century Naval Construction and the complexity of converting the largest Navy in the World into a modern power. It also shows many of the arcane details of the naval construction world, planning, designing and testing new weapons, tactics and the procedures to use these against enemies.
There are a few editing continuity problems, far fewer than are common among new writers. Some are almost unnoticeable and none are really distracting. The writing maintains the interest level and avoids heavy jargon and specialized language wherever possible. The mystery is intriguing and well thought out and the characterizations are mostly well done. Sherlockian purists may have problems with the Holmes and Watson presented here, but the surroundings and complexity of cooperating with the naval authorities actually combine to impose serious limitations on Holmes’ usual disrespect for authority. The naval personnel are eager to deal with the problem and are easier to persuade than I would expect, while Holmes is more open and talkative than he is normally presented.
This is a fun read and a very interesting picture of a long gone place and time. The author certainly knows his subject and presents an insider’s view of the complex machine that built the greatest navy in the world.
This is another collection of three novellas prepared from notes left by Dr. Watson. Unlike the earlier collection by this author, all these tales were cited in the Canon as Untold Tales. As in his earlier collection, these tales are written from notes rather than from narratives already prepared for publication. In fact, it is clear that these stories were never intended to be made public. This fact presents us with a somewhat different view of the Holmes/Watson partnership and it allows readers to understand better why Holmes valued Watson’s help and insights. We are spared the self-deprecation and obvious obfuscations of the Canonical tales and, instead, see more of the working relationship of a team.
As a note for the curious, Watson quite properly called the box he deposited with his bankers a “Dispatch Box” because that is what it was. However, bankers have their own jargon and they call deposited, secure boxes “deed boxes,” because that is what such items have traditionally held, deeds that demonstrate ownership of property.
“The Case of Colonel Warburton’s Madness” dips into Dr.Watson’s past and introduces Holmes to the afflictions of the good Doctor’s former Colonel. There have been almost twenty attempts to tell this story, mentioned in passing by Watson in “The Greek Interpreter,” and this is definitely one of the best offerings I have seen. It is puzzling and confusing, but it always seems to ‘feel’ natural as one reads it. People act as individuals trying to cope with problems not apparent to the outside observer, but they are always people, not stick figures or costumed dummies. The hero and heroine are both troubled and unsure of each other. The Colonel acts strangely, but has good reasons for what he does.
“The Mystery of the Paradol Chamber” relates the Untold Tale of “…the adventure of the Paradol Chamber…” (cited in “The Five Orange Pips”). Again, there have been many attempts to tell this tale, at least fifteen are known to me and this is probably the most complicated I have seen. In addition, the motives for many of the most puzzling actions by the principals arise from completely different bases than are expected, so the outcome and motivations are obscure through most of the narrative.
The final story in this collection is that of “The Giant Rat of Sumatra,” cited as “Matilda Briggs was…a ship which is associated with the giant rat of Sumatra…“ in “The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire.” This is quite possibly the most popular of the mentioned but Untold Tales with more than sixty versions known to me. It is exceeded in popularity as a subject for pastiches only by the Unmentioned Untold Tale, that of Holmes and ‘Saucy Jack.’
This telling of “The Giant Rat” associates Holmes and Watson with the Royal Navy at the request of brother Mycroft. A new Minister of the Navy must be named soon and the preferred candidate has gone missing. Holmes and Watson are needed to track him down and to clear up the mystery of his disappearance. This involves the pair in strange doings and introduces even stranger persons into the story line. The matter is resolved, but at serious cost and with disappointing results.
As in his earlier collection, the author has managed to retain the ‘sound’ of the Canonical tales but has also managed to infuse his works with more human and life-like views of Holmes and, especially, of Watson. I expect that most Sherlockians are aware that the person who ‘wrote’ most of those Canonical tales could not have been the same person who got everything wrong or misinterpreted while participating in them. The Watson presented here is a sensible and thoughtful person, well capable of arguing with Holmes and of pulling him back from error when he forgets that we are all human.