“Inspired” is the key word here, for contributors have been encouraged to interpret their remit even more broadly than in the editors’ previous two collections (In the Company of Sherlock Holmes, 2014, etc.).
John Connolly sets the tone by confronting Holmes and Watson, enshrined in a magical library after Holmes’ death, with their inferior post-Reichenbach avatars. David Morrell, Jonathan Maberry, and William Kent Krueger walk similar metafictional tightropes when they arrange debates between Arthur Conan Doyle and a spectral Holmes over spiritualism, bring C. Auguste Dupin to console Watson at Holmes’ empty grave, and present a child-psychologist Watson providing therapy to a boy who believes he’s Sherlock Holmes. Other contributors briskly update the Great Detective. Meg Gardiner’s sleuth investigates a breach in computer security; Hank Phillippi Ryan’s Annabelle Holmes follows a trail of pictogram emails to a missing fiancee; Gary Phillips’ Sherlock, in a rayon shirt and bell-bottoms, investigates the assassination of an iconic civil rights leader; Cory Doctorow explores the problem of a conscience-driven leaker of secret intelligence. Meanwhile, back in the Victorian era, Tasha Alexander sketches a deft and funny prequel to “A Scandal in Bohemia,” Dana Cameron’s free-wheeling Watson recounts Holmes’ search for a hidden legacy, and Tony Lee and Bevis Musson give Mrs. Hudson a thimble-sized comic-book case more notable for visual style than narrative invention. Sherlock is channeled by Catriona McPherson’s lady’s maid, Deborah Crombie’s cheeky goddaughter Sherry Watson, Anne Perry’s TV Holmes, Denise Mina’s not-a-witch Shirley, and Michael Scott’s Dublin madam, who assists the police in their investigation of a celebrated real-life theft. Although most of these tales are more notable for their high concepts than the ways they’re worked out, Hallie Ephron’s tale of a movie actress who once played Irene Adler and is now understudying a much younger Irene is a delight from beginning to end.
Though the level of inspiration in individual stories varies widely, every fan will find different reasons to cheer. And they’ll all marvel at the inventive range of this salute to the greatest of all fictional detectives.