THE SHERLOCK HOLMES BOOKSHELF

The bookshelf stands empty, but it is our intention to fill it; as we do we shall acquaint ourselves with works both by Sir.Arthur Conan Doyle and other authors who have taken up their pens to add to those original fifty-six short stories and the four novels. The game, it seems, is once more afoot...
Originally a writer of Science Fiction, Michael Kurland turned his hand to detective fiction after the success of his 1978 work The Infernal Device. In Who Thinks Evil, Professor Moriarty has been framed for the raid on a country house and languishes in a prison cell where he works on the abstract problems afforded to his superior intellect by his study of celestial motion and relativity. An aristocratic visitor visits him in his cell to ask for help finding a missing VIP - none than Prince Albert Victor himself. It emerges the Professor was recommended by Mycroft Holmes, but a series of brutal, sadistic murders - the work of a madman, add urgency to the effort to regain the Prince.


Kurland's work is a joy; his writing is of the period, but with a modernity and freshness that make it far more accessible than reading much Victorian fiction. Even the characters, places and organizations ring with enjoyably arcane names; Mr.Fetch, Mummer Tolliver and The Mendicant's Guild (Based, doubtless on the Amateur Mendicant Society, mentioned in passing by Sir. Arthur Conan Doyle.) Having Moriarty as the hero rather turns matters topsy, but as it works so wonderfully the reader hardly feels the relative absence of Sherlock Holmes. This rather highlights a natural criticism of Sir. Arthur's original villain; in modern parlance he 'Missed a trick'. A quote from the Science-Fiction great Isaac Asimov; "Kurland has made Moriarty more interesting than Doyle ever made Holmes".  Such sacrilegious condemnation cannot be dismissed lightly; Doyle's Detective is endlessly fascinating, but Mr. Asimov has hit on the fact that Moriarty's appearances in the original stories are fleeting and few in number. Kurland - and other authors - have leaped to correct this deficiency and in style. Quite a four-piper!.
Anthony Horowitz is everywhere; chosen to write the new James Bond novel Trigger Mortis, writer of Foyle's War, the recipient of an OBE. Following his entree into the world of Sherlock Holmes with The House of Silk, Horowitz returns with Moriarty. Following the events at the Reichenbach Falls, Sherlock Holmes is believed dead. A Pinkerton agent and Inspector Athelney Jones of Scotland yard are sent after the mysterious Clarence Devereux, an American criminal whose agoraphobic nature makes the task of even identifying him next to impossible. Devereux was apparently arranging to meet with Moriarty when the Professor met his death, but far from a partnership, it seems the American is intent on dominating the London Underworld. As the truth becomes clear, layer by layer, a bloody confrontation seems inevitable.


Having read Horowitz's Bond novel, expectations were high for Moriarty. Aside from the clever twists, the author gives us old and new characters; Athelney Jones is both - Doyle's original dolt is replaced by an obsessed man, studying each and every of Holmes' methods to make himself the official version, whilst John Clay, the burglar with aristocratic pretension returns in a supporting role. Personal favourite Colonel Sebastian Moran is here too, but most remarkable of all, however, is Perry, a child with a psychopathy to rival Jack the Ripper and a nasty habit of carrying surgical blades. Look deep into the book and there are the clues - page 81 suggests itself - and the odd little joke (A character mentions their habit of counting words - doubtless Mr. Horowitz has the same feature on his computer as my own.) help lift this book. Mainly, however, it is the pace; readers will find themselves turning pages at quite a rate. As a bonus, the adventure 'The Three Monarchs', purportedly from The Strand magazine appears at the end of the book. Time for a fill.
Another gem for our shelf, this anthology showcases the work of eleven authors. In all, twenty short stories provide the reader with a variety of Holmes stories, with an inevitable variety of style and quality. Fortunately for us, the quality never drops below the level of 'fine' and all are enjoyable reads. Editor David Stuart Davies contributes as Author as well. Davies is well-known for his plays featuring Holmes and his writing on the Detective is prodigious. At random, we have selected three tales to review.

The Adventure of the Brown Box
The sudden death of Victor Furnival at his breakfast catches Holmes' interest - his niece Agnes Montague then engages his services. Furnival was a collector of curios and opening his post that fateful morning he discovered a brown box. Uttering a blood-chilling scream, he was dead. Following this, the visit of a seafarer who had been known to her late Uncle in the West Indies brings further cause for concern. Captain Jex is then found prostrate beside the same box, on recovering his senses he reveals he felt faint after opening the mysterious box. 

Leaving his client to return home, Holmes cautions her to close the door and not to enter the room containing the deadly box. Meanwhile, he journeys with Watson to Greenwich to find Captain Jex gone from his lodgings. Returning to Norwood, it seems Furnival's sister has become the next victim of the box. Inspector Athelney Jones of Scotland Yard is waiting and Holmes leads the group into the fateful room...

Denis O.Smith provides several of the tales in this collection. A Yorkshireman with a passion for antique cartography and the great age of steam, his story is well-written, with that sense of morbidity and horror that lurks below the surface of all good Victorian fiction. 

The Return of the Sussex Vampire
Antipodean author Christopher Sequueira specialises in the areas of Horror, Science-Fiction and Mystery. 

It is 1926. Now retired, Watson has reached his mid-seventies, publishing the occasional episode of Holmes' incredible career. One morning he finds Holmes at his door. Himself now seventy-two, still lively despite the ravages of time, with another case to be solved. On the train down to Sussex, Holmes recounts the Adventure of the Sussex Vampire - that case was soon cleared up, but now rumours of a fresh Vampiric case abound at Tunwell Castle. Josiah Ferguson is the Master of the Castle, his eldest daughter Bessie awoke to a man in dark clothing and a hood who attacked her viciously, attempting to bite her to the neck. A second incident, was, if anything, more chilling; the attacker returned and appeared to fly from a parapet some thirty feet above the ground. Can Holmes solve what appears to be a supernatural mystery?...

The Adventure of the Christmas Bauble
With a week until Christmas, Inspector Lestrade arrives with some parcels. Presents?, no - a case!. A foreign noblewoman is in London to do some shopping. Intending to purchase a diamond, she arranged for a jeweller to bring a stone up to her Hotel suite. Lestrade shows some sketches showing the stone as it might appear set into a ring. From the scale it appears the stone is impressive, indeed. On leaving, however, the unfortunate jeweller was robbed of the diamond as well as his pocket book and watch. The latter items were found discarded, but a constable recognised a petty thief and pickpocket by the name of Winter. Cornered in one of London's fine department stores - by a Christmas display of all things, the thief is soon apprehended. Of the diamond there is no sign. Of course, if anyone can solve such a mystery, it is Holmes...

John Hall's story is High Victoriana in the purest form; you half expect to bump into a character from Dickens on the way. A well-known 'Sherlockian' scholar, Hall has a regular column in the journal of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London and is a member of the International Pipe Smokers' Hall of Fame.

Now... what rating to award?... although some of the tales herein merit higher, overall Sherlock Holmes: The Game's Afoot receives the following...





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