Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger have once again edited a volume of stories aimed at expanding the Sherlock Holmes multiverse. As always, these two have gathered a stellar cast of writers for their new anthology, Echoes of Sherlock Holmes.
This time out, the assignment for these admitted Sherlock Holmes devotees was to create a story inspired by Sir Authur Conan Doyle’s detective stories. Not surprisingly, the resulting stories are as varied as the writers who are participating. What they all share is a clear love of Sherlock and a desire to pay homage to one of the greats of the crime fiction community.
Hopefully, readers will delve into Echoes of Sherlock Holmes to discover some of their own favorite stories, but for a small taste here are brief reviews of some stories that stand out for me.
“Where There Is Honey” by Dana Cameron
The fact that this is the longest story in the collection should delight readers because Dana Cameron has proven herself a master practitioner of the crime fiction short story. “Where There Is Honey” only further cements that status. Unlike many of the stories in the anthology, this one features Watson and Holmes as we know and love them. Watson is again working to hone his storytelling skills when they are asked to help in a case involving a hidden inheritance. Dana works in many favorite characters: Mycroft, Mrs. Hudson, the irregulars along with a damn fine fight scene. And she manages to do it all with a story that also involves Anna Hoyt, a character she has used in other award-recognized stories (those set in Colonial times).
“The Spiritualist” by David Morrell
David Morrell comes at the theme by way of Arthur Conan Doyle himself. Morrell’s story plays with the well-known fact that Doyle became a bit of a spiritualist in his later life. The story features Doyle debating all manner of metaphysical topics with his own creation, Sherlock Holmes. As a historical, Morrell is able to embed some real facts about the public’s role in influencing the evolution of Holmes along with other matters in Doyle’s real life. Readers of Morrell’s Victorian series know that he is more than capable of invoking the period effectively.
“Mrs. Hudson Investigates” by Tony Lee and Bevis Musson
This is certainly the most uniquely styled story in the volume. Told in comic book format, this story explains how Mrs. Hudson took over Sherlock’s investigative duties while he was missing and presumed dead. Mrs. Hudson has a rivalry with Mrs. Stabknife, Moriarty’s housekeeper, which is an ingenious way to pay homage to the original. This lighter story also features cameos from Watson and Irene Adler.
“The Adventure of the Dancing Women” by Hank Phillippi Ryan
Probably the most delightfully original story in the collection, Hank Phillippi Ryan’s tale features Annabelle Holmes and her war-veteran secretary, Watson. These two ladies become involved in a case that takes their investigation straight to a dance studio. Always one to keep things relevant, Ryan here employs a continuous debate over emoticons to ground her story in the present-day. I have to admit: the final line of the story caused me to laugh out loud with glee and mad-respect. I hope to see this one get some award recognition in the future.
“Understudy in Scarlet” by Hallie Ephron
Hallie Ephron tells a story that is very much in her wheelhouse. “Understudy in Scarlet” is the tale of an aging actress who must mentor an ingénue in the role of Irene Adler for a remake of her classic movie. However, danger lurks around every corner of the studio lot. This one plays like a mash-up between All about Eve and Sunset Blvd. Few crime fiction writers know Hollywood as well as Hallie Ephron, so prepare to be swept away.
“Martin X” by Gary Phillips
Gary Phillips adds some much needed diversity to the world of Sherlock Holmes. His main characters Dock Watson and Sherlock investigate a series of crimes again the black community after the death of a prominent civil rights leader. Phillips’ ability to craft fully-fleshed out and engaging characters in limited space is masterful. His stories are never long enough and this one is no exception.
“The Painted Smile” by William Kent Krueger
Another very clever plotline with this one. Krueger tells the story of a boy named Oliver Wendell Holmes who is in the midst of therapy because he believes that he is Sherlock Holmes. The interaction between the boy and the child psychologist is wonderfully crafted and the resolution is nicely played. This one has some great insight into topics and methods of therapy, as well.
“The First Mrs. Coulter” by Catriona McPherson
Catriona McPherson’s series character, Dandy Gilver, shares the same wit and intellect as Sherlock Holmes, so it is only fitting that her lady’s maid, Miss Cordelia Grant take center stage in this tale. This story’s theme of society scandal plays well from the servant’s viewpoint and works nicely as a Sherlock homage and an entrée into Gilverton.
“The Case of the Speckled Trout” by Deborah Crombie
Crombie’s story features Sherry Watson, who obtains a gap-year job at a remote hunting lodge. There is some nice use of setting in this story and Crombie’s inclusion of assumed names is well thought-out and satisfying for the reader. The theme of family and loyalty is one that subtly echoes the classic stories in unexpected ways.
“Limited Resources” by Denise Mina
This story features no direct mention of Sherlock Holmes. Mina presents a witch-like initiation in a northern UK setting. The ingenuity with which these characters suss out the mystery presented is the connection to the Doyle works here and the ending rightfully clever enough to satisfy the reader and pay tribute to the legend.