Only “The Adventure of the Six Sherlocks,” Toni L.P. Kelner’s inventive, amusing story of a fatal poisoning at a Baker...

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FOR THE SAKE OF THE GAME

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.

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68177-879-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Pegasus Crime

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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THE MIDNIGHT CLUB

Patterson's thrillers (Virgin, 1980; Black Market, 1986) have plummeted in quality since his promising debut in The Thomas Berryman Number (1976)—with this latest being the sorriest yet: a clanky and witless policer about a criminal mastermind and the cop sworn to take him down. Aside from watching sympathetic homicide dick John ("Stef") Stefanovich comeing to terms with a wheelchair-bound life—legacy of a shotgun blast to the back by drug-and-gun-running archfiend Alexandre St.-Germain—the major interest here lies in marvelling at the author's trashing of fiction convention. The whopper comes early: although St.-Germain is explicity described as being machine-gunned to death by three vigilante cops in a swank brothel (". . .a submachine gun blast nearly ripped off the head of Alexandre St.-Germain"; "The mobster's head and most of his neck had been savaged by the machine-gun volley. The body looked desecrated. . ."), before you know it this latter-day Moriarty is stepping unscathed out of an airplane. What gives? Authorial cheating, that's what—thinly glossed over with some mumbling later on about a "body double." Not that St.-Germain's ersatz death generated much suspense anyway, with subsequent action focusing on, among other items, the gory killings of assorted mob bosses by one of the vigilante cops, and Stef's viewing of pornographic tapes confiscated from that brothel. But readers generous enough to plod on will get to read about the newly Lazarus-ized St.-Germain's crass efforts to revitalize and consolidate the world's crime syndicates ("the Midnight Club"), Stef's predictable tumble for a sexy true-crime writer, and how (isn't one miracle enough for Patterson?) at book's end Stef walks again and gets to embrace a rogue cop who's murdered several people. Ironsides with a badge and a lobotomy.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1988

ISBN: 0446676411

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1988

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