Following their three earlier co-edited collections exploring farther and farther reaches of the universe of Sherlock Holmes pastiches (Echoes of Sherlock Holmes, 2016, etc.), King and Klinger have commissioned 14 new stories that make up their wildest, weirdest crop yet.
The goal not to write a straightforward period pastiche but to produce something more loosely inspired by the canon suggests at least three criteria by which the entries might be judged: their success as mysteries, the fidelity or ingenuity with which they replicate or transform notable thematic or stylistic devices of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, and the originality of the concepts that link them to the sacred writings. Virtually none of this year’s crop succeeds in all three of these areas. The strongest mysteries are Harley Jane Kozak’s breathlessly overplotted contemporary search for a missing twin, D.P. Lyle’s exposure of a modern fake suicide by recourse to “The Reigate Squires,” Weston Ochse’s encounter between a hot dog seller and a psychic prostitute in LA, and Jamie Freveletti’s elaborately worked-out tale of vanishings, ghosts, and counterterrorists. The most obviously Holmes-ian are F. Paul Wilson’s period tale of Holmes’ encounter with a woman nearly as impressive as Irene Adler, Alan Gordon’s droll account of young Sherlock’s apprenticeship to his sorely tried brother, Mycroft, and Zoë Sharp’s surprisingly detailed update of The Hound of the Baskervilles. The most original in their concepts are Peter S. Beagle’s poem in which Watson complains about Holmes even as he salutes him, Rhys Bowen’s reimagining of Holmes as a robot programmed with deductive powers, and William Kotzwinkle and Joe Servello’s comic-book saga of Inspector [Praying] Mantis and Dr. [Grass] Hopper. Despite their varied provocations, the contributions by Reed Farrel Coleman, Gregg Hurwitz, and Duane Swierczynski escape Holmes’ gravitational pull so completely that they float out into other universes.
Only “The Adventure of the Six Sherlocks,” Toni L.P. Kelner’s inventive, amusing story of a fatal poisoning at a Baker Street Con, hits the mark in every category. Fans will argue endlessly about which others are the real keepers.