Okay Sherlock fandom, are you desperate for something to slake your thirst as you slough through the eternal drought of waiting for Season 4? (We all know you are. We’ve seen the memes.) Check out Further Encounters of Sherlock Holmes, a collection of short stories edited by George Mann. Explore twelve original Sherlock Holmes stories by well established authors, including a surprising amount of writers from Doctor Who. In any case, there is some truly lovely writing in this book.
Before digging into this delightful collection, it’s important for me to remind everyone that while the current Sherlock fandom seems particularly vocal and obsessive in their love for all things BBC’s Sherlock and Benedict Cumberbatch (The Purple Shirt of Sex, anyone?) they belong to a fascinating and rich history of Sherlock fanatics. To quote Wikipedia: “ Fans of the literary detective Sherlock Holmes are widely considered to have composed the first modern fandom, creating some of the first fan fiction as early as 1887 and holding public demonstrations of mourning after Holmes was “killed” off in 1893.”
Long after BBC’s Sherlock ends, the character of Sherlock Holmes will live on, this complex archetype reinvented for each generation. As George Mann writes in the introduction to Further Encounters: “It’s probably fair to say that Holmes is one of the most successful and popular fictional characters of all time. Indeed, he’s no longer just a fictional character from the latter days of the nineteenth century, and nor does he remain the creation of one man alone.”
My point is simply that there’s more to Sherlock Holmes than one incarnation can capture, and I feel fortunate to have experienced his story in a variety of mediums. It is fun and exciting to explore these characters from a variety of angles and universes, and you don’t have to be a fan of just one version to enjoy the enigma that is Sherlock Holmes. (So can these Sherlock v. Elementary arguments just end now? Please?) In Further Encounters of Sherlock Holmes, readers are treated to twelve new adventures with the world’s greatest consulting detective and his faithful friend, Dr. John Watson.
This collection starts of with a bang. In Phillip Purser-Hallard’s “The Adventure of the Professor’s Bequest” readers are thrown right into a classic style Sherlock Holmes story involving a mystery involving the late Professor Moriarty’s sister. While the resolution of the mystery was somewhat predictable in the best way, allowing readers to feel a little of Holmes’s superiority at having come to the right conclusion before anyone else, I felt like the discoveries made by both Holmes and Watson towards the end hit all the right emotional notes.
The next story, “The Curious Case of the Compromised Card-Index” by Andrew Lane reveals the data driven, brilliant but brittle Sherlock Holmes whose calculating “Which law have I broken?” elicits a chill to the soul in both Dr. Watson and myself. In “Sherlock Holmes and the Popish Relic” by Mark A Latham, I particularly enjoyed Watson’s stand against his friend, saving both their lives despite the inestimable detective’s inability to consider the supernatural. John Watson’s openness to those things that reason cannot explain also plays a big part in “The Girl Who Paid for Silence” by Scott Handcock. Easily one of my favorites in this collection, this story relies much more on John’s strong narrative and the his relationship with Sherlock than in the resolution of the case.
“An Adventure in Three Courses” by Guy Adams is also about the relationship between Holmes and Watson, exploring the fact that Sherlock is frankly not a very good person to be friends with. Compared to “The Curious Case of the Compromised Card Index,” this Sherlock is even colder and more calculating, but then, in the first story it was his data, not Watson, that was threatened.
Further Encounters of Sherlock Holmes saves the best for last. “A Betrayal of Doubt” by Philip Marsh is perhaps one of the most emotional Sherlock Holmes stories that I’ve read to date. Narrated by Dr. John Watson Jr., readers join an aging Sherlock and his youthful companion as the consulting detective is pulled out of retirement to take on one last case. I loved this story, from John Jr.‘s relationship with his wife Millie to the heartbreaking description of the consulting detective struggles with the ravages of time. Poignant and beautifully written, “A Betrayal of Doubt” is brilliant: one of those piece of fiction that will always stick with me. What higher praise can I offer?
Like the great detective himself, I don’t want to spoil big reveal before the time is right. I’ve highlighted six of the twelve stories in Further Encounters of Sherlock Holmes, but there’s much more to be experienced if you’re ready to pull out your magnifying class and peer closer. It doesn’t take a genius to deduce that Further Encounters of Sherlock Holmes is well worth your examination!