Originally published in 2002 by now defunct Reynolds & Hearn publishing this new updated edition includes coverage of Sherlock Holmes film and telOriginally published in 2002 by now defunct Reynolds & Hearn publishing this new updated edition includes coverage of Sherlock Holmes film and television programs released up to and including early 2011. The second Downey film SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS and the second series of the BBC series SHERLOCK are mentioned, but do not have specific individual listings. Alan Barnes (with occasional assists from writers Jonathan Rigby and Andy Lane) manages to provide succinct synopses, cast lists, production notes and insightful commentary to well over 300 individual programs from around the globe that feature the Great Detective. While the book certainly notes areas of fidelity and deviation from Conan Doyle's stories in the various adaptations, this is more about judging the films on their own merits and levels of success in terms of entertainment value, in short, this is accessible to film buffs, not just Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts.
Barnes has a witty, slightly amused tone that makes the book an engaging read even when covering some of the least inspiring entries. It's hard to just dip in to read a specific entry without carrying on to whatever follows. While an index is lacking, it's a minor complaint as this is easily the best written, most wide reaching, informative and entertaining book of its kind. I firmly agree with the comment emblazoned across the top of the cover by writer/producer of the BBC's SHERLOCK - "I love this book." If you only buy one book on the film and television representations of Sherlock Holmes, it should be this one. Highly recommended....more
Jeremy Brett: The Definitive Sherlock Holmes is an interesting, although slightly misleading, title for Linda Pritchard’s (Brett's sometime companionJeremy Brett: The Definitive Sherlock Holmes is an interesting, although slightly misleading, title for Linda Pritchard’s (Brett's sometime companion in his last years) second book on the subject of Jeremy Brett. For starters it gives the impression that the book is very much about Brett as Holmes, which is not exactly the case. Secondly it is liable to ruffle a few feathers amongst Sherlockians as the word “definitive” will, no doubt, be hotly debated for its application to Brett. Perhaps the phrase A Pictorial Tribute to, which appears only on the front cover, preceding the main title of Jeremy Brett: The Definitive Sherlock Holmes, might have been a more apt choice in naming this particular book, for that is precisely what this is. A pictorial tribute to Jeremy Brett the man; the actor; and possibly even the definitive Sherlock Holmes.
The slender large format trade paperback is really a very lovely photo-album consisting of about 100 pictures, mostly black and white, of Brett throughout his career. It is an eye-opening experience to discover the range of looks that Brett had captured in his wide variety of roles on stage, television and the occasional film. The section about stage performances is possibly the most interesting as we can see a very youthful and frightened looking Mark Antony in 1954 give way to a sophisticated and haunted Hamlet in 1961. We have a bewhiskered Che Guevera in 1969 rubbing shoulders with a smiling George Tesman in a 1970 production of Hedda Gabler, followed by the flamboyant Dracula of 1978 and culminating in the world-weary Holmes in the The Secret of Sherlock Holmes.
The Films section is painfully short, a reminder that Brett’s youthful good looks never really impacted on the big screen. It consists mainly of a few stills from War and Peace and, of course, My Fair Lady.
The television section (excluding Holmes) offers a fascinating glimpse into some long unseen roles. We have Brett as the smugly sinister Dorian Gray in 1963 contrasting nicely with the dashingly handsome D’Artagnan of 1966, both roles which likely suited him very well. His roles in the 1980s – 1990’s are also nicely represented, with stills from The Good Soldier, Macbeth for HBO, and Deceptions for NBC featured amongst them. The book, now at the halfway mark then switches over to Sherlock Holmes.
The Holmes section of the book is pretty standard fare actually, consisting mainly of oft-seen Granada publicity stills. 8 pages of colour photos are also included in this section adding very little to the impact of the book as a whole.
The text elements of the book are relatively short and, quite frankly, outside of the acting credits, mainly of the “Jeremy was a kind, wonderful man who touched my life and is greatly missed” variety, saying more about the contributors (a somewhat gushy fan letters section in particular) than they do about Brett. The final 20 pages consist entirely of text, the bulk of which is simply an obligatory appendix, listing cast and broadcast dates for each episode of the Granada series, followed by adverts for Brett websites and other books on Brett available from Rupert Books.
So is it a good book? Well, if you adore Jeremy Brett and would enjoy perusing a photo-album of his career, then by all means, it is a good book. If however you are interested in a book about what it is that, for many, makes Jeremy Brett the “definitive” Holmes, I say look elsewhere, as you’d be better served by either David Stuart Davies Bending the Willow or Michael Cox’s A Study in Celluloid. ...more
A book with all the information which you have here is a must for all of us who love this adventure.” - Edward Hardwicke
The above quotation, from EdwaA book with all the information which you have here is a must for all of us who love this adventure.” - Edward Hardwicke
The above quotation, from Edward Hardwicke’s foreword to Philip Weller’s The Hound of the Baskervilles: Hunting the Dartmoor Legend sums up my feelings quite nicely. Just in time for the 100th anniversary of the first serial publication of The Hound of the Baskervilles in The Strand magazine, we are presented with an invaluable research tool and highly fitting celebration of Doyle’s classic story.
Based on publicity, I half expected the book to be a travelogue of Dartmoor, I was happily surprised to discover that the book is no such thing. As a matter of fact, the location-spotting game takes up only a fraction of the information presented here. This book is an overall look at The Hound and many of the factors that went into its creation!
The Hound of the Baskervilles: Hunting the Dartmoor Legend is divided into two nearly equal segments. The first, entitled The Men on the Tor is Philip Weller’s investigation into the history and genesis of The Hound; the second segment contains the full text of The Strand version of Doyle’s story annotated by Weller.
Weller approaches his subject as more or less a historical or textbook investigation. Now don’t be frightened by either of those terms, as the writing is personal, readable and highly engaging from start to finish, it is simply structured like a textbook. Weller never falls into a lecturing tone and manages the occasional sly wink to the reader as well. His firsthand research of Dartmoor’s history, geography, literature and locations is remarkable; his appreciation of the region and the story itself is apparent throughout the work.
The first chapter serves as something of an introduction to the Sherlockian game and creates a context from which the reader can better appreciate the approach to the material that follows. From there Weller dives directly into the genesis of the story, explaining how and why Doyle found himself on Dartmoor in the company of Bertram Fletcher Robinson and the coachman Harry Baskerville. More importantly he breaks down the specific order of events that lead to Doyle’s ‘collaboration’ with Robinson and just how far Robinson’s involvement goes (if you want specifics, read the book!).
The next few chapters focus on detecting the possible sources that may have inspired Conan Doyle in creating The Hound. These sources are helpfully broken down into historical, literary and legendary. The latter being the most interesting, to this reader, as Weller discusses the various legends associated with spectral hounds and to my mind successfully presents a rational argument for his conclusions.
The next two chapters deal with Dartmoor locations, both real and Imaginary, to be found in The Hound. Weller’s love and knowledge of the region is very clear in these chapters, and once again he provides reasonable evidence for his assignment of story locations to actual locations. He also supplies alternatives and the reasoning for their rejection.
By this point, the reader will have an excellent grasp of Dartmoor and its relation to the heart of The Hound, so Weller leaves the Moor and discusses the effect of the book in a wider framework. In what is to me the most interesting chapter – The Authorship Controversy - in this already fascinating study, he sums up the many accusations that arose surrounding the actual authorship of The Hound. Starting with The Bookman article in October of 1901 we are carried through the whole gamut, right up to the present day, concluding with the ravings of Rodger Garrick Steele.
The final two chapters in the first half of the book briefly explore the numerous film adaptations of the story and the ongoing Hound phenomenon respectively. In his conclusion, Weller rightly points out that while this volume does gather together much of the available data, the hunt for the Hound continues.
The second half, as mentioned earlier, is a reprinting of The Strand Magazine text of The Hound, Paget illustrations included, with notations by Weller. Strangely, it is here that my one main criticism arises. The annotations are not indicated in the text itself, but presented as an appendix with page and line numbers directing the reader back to the appropriate page in the story. While I enjoyed reading the notes on their own, there is something to be said for having them handy, or at the very least indicated, while reading through the story.
A sturdy binding, high-quality paper and wonderful photo reproduction are all brought together under an evocative dust-jacket, making the book a high quality production and well worth the £24.95 price. If you should buy only one book on The Hound of the Baskervilles, make it this one as you won’t regret it!...more
While many Sherlockians engage in the mental gymnastics of “Playing the Game”, their efforts pale in comparison to the contortionists who have embraceWhile many Sherlockians engage in the mental gymnastics of “Playing the Game”, their efforts pale in comparison to the contortionists who have embraced the connect-the-dots style of game playing inspired by Philip Jose Farmer’s Wold Newton Universe concept. Taking his cue from the Sherlockian approach to dealing with Holmes as a real life personage, Farmer wrote his fictional biographies TARZAN ALIVE and DOC SAVAGE: HIS APOCALYPTIC LIFE creating a unified family tree connecting most pop fiction heroes and villains since 1795 onwards in the process! In MYTHS FOR THE MODERN AGE: PHILIP JOSE FARMER’S WOLD NEWTON UNIVERSE editor Win Scot Eckert pulls together 28 essays, by a variety of Wold Newton fans, and reprints a few Farmer pieces as well, expanding on the concept. While only one of the included essays deals specifically with Sherlock Holmes, the heavy interconnectedness of the concept means you’ll find references to Holmes, Moriarty, and various other ACD characters scattered throughout almost every essay in the book. Unfortunately the quality of writing varies dramatically from piece to piece, Rick Lai’s The Secret History of Captain Nemo and Fu Manchu vs. Cthulhu essays stand head and shoulders above the rest, the book is a wildly uneven read at best. Recommended only to those with a familiarity, or appreciation of, the Wold Newton concept, or anyone that really gets a kick out of stretching the patently implausible to the breaking point....more
Jess Nevins’ mammoth survey of Victorian popular fiction is a hugely entertaining and handy tome for anyone with more than a passing interest in the eJess Nevins’ mammoth survey of Victorian popular fiction is a hugely entertaining and handy tome for anyone with more than a passing interest in the era and its bewildering array of literary heroes and villains. As the title suggests this is in fact a straightforward encyclopedia, featuring listings and write-ups summarizing background, explaining character traits, etc…for hundreds of characters, ranging from the obvious to the obscure. Perhaps a bit less objective than I’d like, with Nevins’ injecting a strongly personal bias to some listings, it still proves to be highly useful and vastly entertaining. Sherlock Holmes is, of course, given a fair bit of coverage, roughly three plus pages, with further separate entries for other Arthur Conan Doyle characters including Irene Adler, Edward Bellingham, Jack Brocket, Micah Clarke, Brigadier Gerard, Sir Nigel Loring, Professor Moriarty, Professor Van Baumgarten and Duncan Warner. Well worth the expense and perfect for either extended reading or to dip into here and there as time and interest require. Highly recommended to Sherlockians and students of the Victorian pop literature scene alike!...more
In recent weeks I have found myself reading some of the gothic-style work of Basil Copper and renewing my interest in macabre fiction. So when I cameIn recent weeks I have found myself reading some of the gothic-style work of Basil Copper and renewing my interest in macabre fiction. So when I came across The Irregular Casebook of Sherlock Holmes at the Calabash Press site, I was in the right frame of mind to tackle another Holmes versus the supernatural type book. Expecting to regret my spur of the moment decision, I went ahead and ordered it anyway. The result, well, lets just say that I’ve made worse decisions. The book consists of five short stories of rather varied levels of success. Each is tied to some element of the supernatural. Not what I would generally consider to be a clever blending of genres, but happily the author manages to maintain the Holmes of old with only a minimum of strain.
The first story, The Case of the Fiery Messengers is likely the strongest in the book. The case is brought to Holmes attention by no less of a literary figure than M. R. James, himself a master of the macabre tale. A missing manuscript page stolen from an occult tome in the hand of John Dee, leads our erstwhile heroes to Cambridge where a clever little riddle is the key to nabbing the culprit. Was there a vengeful spectre that delivered retribution? You can decide for yourself.
The second story takes us to the cold and foreboding Yorkshire moors to investigate The Shadow of the Wolf. As the title implies, this is a fairly traditional werewolf story, but somehow manages to drag in yet another episode of Holmes travels in Tibet (told in flashback) at Mycroft’s bequest. As with much of this type of fiction the main point for the reader is playing a quick game of guess which cursed family member is actually the hairy horror. A far superior story to the similarly themed Sherlock Holmes & The Silver Vengence by W. Lane, put out by Magico a few years back.
The next two stories are the weakest in this collection. The Curse of Nectanebo is a silly sort of mummy story that starts, of course, at the British Museum and swiftly takes our heroes to Egypt. I have a feeling that the author overly enjoyed the recent Universal Studios Mummy film or possibly The Wind and the Lion, as this one treats us to the spectacle of Holmes at the head of a troop of Arab horseman. The penultimate case relies a little too much on a dubious fictional episode from Holmes past to be of any interest (remember the fencing bits in Young Sherlock Holmes?), but does take us to the canals of Venice in The Sect of the Salamander.
The final story The Black Heaven, does present the odd bit of interest as author, Arthur Machen, keeps encountering passers by on the street who casually refer to his literary works as real events and people. Troubled by this, and having read enough Machen, who wouldn’t be? He turns to Holmes for help, but is soon caught up in a web of intrigue involving Welsh Satanists, standing stones and the unlikely spectacle of Mycroft Holmes on horseback. Look you, there’ll be the Devil to pay for this one!
As silly as much of this book was, I found myself enjoying it. Oddly enough, the dialogue is quite good and Holmes manages to stay mostly in character. In answer to those that will throw out the "no ghosts need apply” bit, the author just sort of forgets about it and carries on as though werewolves and Satanists are a perfectly normal part of the Holmesian world. Surprisingly, that seems to be the best way to proceed in pastiches of this sort. Once again, I still affirm that the best blending of Holmes mythos and the supernatural are the two books by Mark Frost, The List of Seven and The Six Messiahs featuring Conan Doyle battling the forces of evil....more
This is Marvin Kaye’s third Holmes anthology. Like all anthologies, the quality of the stories vary widely. The overall product is very good and thisThis is Marvin Kaye’s third Holmes anthology. Like all anthologies, the quality of the stories vary widely. The overall product is very good and this one is much better than his last outing, “The Resurrected Holmes” in that these are straight pastiches, not authors pretending to write in the style of a great author writing in the Doyle vein. (I know this sounds convoluted but it makes sense i.e.:Marvin Kaye writing a Holmes story in the way he imagines Rex Stout would.) Fortunately the umbrella premise for this book is more straightforward, here the linking theme is stories that were suppressed by Watson to avoid scandal. There are some interesting stories here that come very close to the Doyle style while others are stylistically different yet effective all the same. An example of the former is “The Darlington Substitution Scandal” by Henry Slesar. This little tale bears certain similarities to The Man with the Twisted Lip but has far more sinister implications. A frightfully powerful example of the latter is provided by P.C. Hodgel in his remarkable memoir of Holmes childhood entitled “A Ballad of the White Plague”. While no collection is perfect this one (as well as “The Mammoth Book of New Sherlock Holmes Adventures” edited by Mike Ashley. Carroll & Graf 1997) ranks very highly....more
Watson’s passing mention of the unrecorded case of The Giant Rat of Sumatra has proven to be an irresistible draw for writers of pastiche, so much soWatson’s passing mention of the unrecorded case of The Giant Rat of Sumatra has proven to be an irresistible draw for writers of pastiche, so much so that 2001 and saw not one, but two books released under that name. Daniel Gracely has taken the title and used the mysterious beast to good effect in his recently released paperback of the same name. The rat itself is only a clue in a line of reasoning that leads us to an encounter with the late Professor Moriarty’s unheralded successor as well as his most potent and destructive legacy. Gracely, in combining elements of Jules Verne within the framework of a Holmes story provides a short but mildly entertaining read that has a tone more in keeping with a Rathbone film than a Canonical tale.
The story moves along at a fair pace and I found myself enjoying the plot far more than I expected after a less than compelling start. The dialogue is a bit stilted and somewhat basic in style, with Watson's narrative voice being relatively faint, but Holmes is given very Rathbone-like clipped lines that work in spite of their non-Canonical flavour. Mycroft Holmes makes an appearance, not only as the plot concerns the Diogenes Club but because the threat of Moriarty’s legacy is such that all of England is at risk. Basically, an aeronautic trophy has gone missing from the Diogenes Club. Hidden within it is the key to an explosive of such force that the world has seen its destructive capabilities but once…in the destruction of Krakatoa! What does the late Professor’s treatise on gigantism have to do with it? Just what had the mathematical criminal genius discovered? You’ll have to read the book to find out, but be warned that the format of the book leaves something to be desired. As an undersized paperback of 117 pages with some poorly doctored Paget illustrations, it is ridiculously over-priced at $13.95 USD (no doubt caused by a small print-run by an even smaller press – Grandma’s Attic Press).
Recommendation: For the must-have-everything-collector only and not at all recommended for the Canonical purist....more
I confess to having a fondness for Sherlock Holmes cross-universe pastiches when handled with a bit of flair, so when I’d discovered that Gary Lovisi’I confess to having a fondness for Sherlock Holmes cross-universe pastiches when handled with a bit of flair, so when I’d discovered that Gary Lovisi’s Gryphon Books was releasing a third Holmes/H.P. Lovecraft pastiche by Ralph E. Vaughan, I lost no time in ordering it. On arrival it went directly to the top of my ever-increasing pile of pastiches, such is my regard for Vaughan’s previous work Sherlock Holmes in the Adventure of the Ancient Gods (first published in Holmesian Federation #4) and to a lesser extent Sherlock Holmes in the Dreaming Detective (sorry, but I’ve never been terribly fond of HPL’s Dreamland based stories). After devouring the book in one sitting, I’m happy to say that my regard is still intact and my fondness for Vaughan’s approach to Holmes and HPL has increased once again.
Sherlock Holmes and the Terror Out of Time is far less of a blatant HPL inspired story than the overly dramatic title would lead one to believe. Although the plot is still pure undiluted Weird Tales-style pulp fiction, Vaughan has developed considerably from a stylistic viewpoint, not even once invoking the well worn name of Cthulhu! His use of locations and descriptive phrasing is solid throughout. The dialogue is strong and faithful to the spirit of Conan Doyle and by putting Watson out of the way, Vaughan has managed to side step the usual pastiche pitfall of providing Watsonian-style narration and has opted instead to use a third person omniscient narrative. Holmes well-known disregard of the supernatural is effectively explained away, not damaging his credibility or rationality in the least. My only serious annoyance is in the handling of Professor Challenger, who is strangely relegated to the role of Watson substitute and never quite lives up to the brash and impetuous character of The Lost World.
Beginning with an establishing prologue set in British pre-history, we jump quickly to Baker Street where the dying seaman, India Jack Neville, has dropped a package of unspeakable horror literally at the feet of Sherlock Holmes, Professor Challenger and Inspector Wilkins, interrupting their fascinating discourse on Darwinism. With the Macguffin safely in their hands and Watson away, Holmes and Challenger set out to unravel its secrets. What does this ugly idol have to do with the Ki’M’tollo sect of the Maldives? Could it be tied into attacks in the docklands by three giant serpent-like beasts? Holmes and Challenger, the detective and the scientist, are determined to find out! Their quest for knowledge takes them to the British Museum and puts them at odds with a mysterious dark magician named Laslo Bronislav, who is deemed so evil that even Aleister Crowley refers to him as “That Devil!” Aided by the late Professor Moriarty’s chief information man McBane, Bronislav is determined to retrieve the idol from Holmes at all costs. How do the dark magician’s plans tie-in to the Elder Gods? Can Holmes and Challenger defeat Bronislav and the voracious elder gods terrorizing London? What do you think? Of course they can, but the fun of the tale is in the telling!
Sherlock Holmes and the Terror Out of Time is an oversized paperback with illustrated colour covers (don’t be put off by the poor choice of cover art). The book is $15 USD and available directly from Gryphon Books. While you are at it, be sure to order a copy of Ralph Vaughan’s first Holmes/HPL pastiche Sherlock Holmes in the Adventure of the Ancient Gods, if you like the idea of Holmes and Lovecraft combating the threat of Cthulu, you won’t regret it, as it beats P. H. Cannon’s similarly themed Pulptime hands down!
Highly recommended for those who enjoy a fun pulp-fiction style adventure story! Not recommended for the Canonical purist, but if you’ve been considering trying something a little more on the outré side of Holmesian storytelling, this is a good choice!...more
The writer of pastiche who takes Sherlock Holmes from the comfortably familiar environs of London and plunks him down in a far off place is somethingThe writer of pastiche who takes Sherlock Holmes from the comfortably familiar environs of London and plunks him down in a far off place is something of a brave, if perhaps naive, fellow. As tempting as it must be to break with formula and inject some superficial novelty into the proceedings, the unwary writer risks losing the comfortably familiar situations and atmosphere that are so very much crucial elements to the enduring success of the Canon. Unfortunately, losing the charm and atmosphere of London is but one of the problems with Vithal Rajan’s collection of short interconnected stories that make up HOLMES OF THE RAJ.
In The Case of the Murdering Saint, Holmes and Watson are invited to India by an agent of the Ranee of Kanchee to prove that a holy man is not the self-confessed murderer he would appear. It is a flimsy reason for Holmes to travel such a distance, but it is strengthened by a request from Mycroft Holmes on behalf of the Home Office, since political upheaval, based on religious instability, may result from the Shankaracharya’s conviction. Once there, Holmes and Watson find themselves on an extended trip and embroiled in a number of other odd cases and investigations.
In The Bite Worse Than Death we find Watson discovering how malaria is carried and Holmes solving the Ripper case, in The Naga Baiga of Moogli Hills we encounter what is obviously supposed to be the inspiration for Kipling’s THE JUNGLE BOOK, next up is another Kipling inspired piece, Kim and Kim Again which also features a character with the unlikely name of Clark Gable; I need hardly say that things are not quite as they would seem! In Art, Crime and Enlightenment Holmes brushes up on his art appreciation and has, before heading back to England, an unlikely encounter with none other than that staple of pastichery, Professor Moriarty. The final story The Indian Summer of Sherlock Holmes is set 25 years later and has our heroes recalled to India to help maintain stability, and are aided in their endeavors by a fellow named Ganga Din, on the eve of the First World War.
While the stories are certainly quite readable, and very rich in authentic Indian colour, character and political concerns, Rajan doesn’t come close to achieving the Watsonian voice one hopes for in good pastiche, largely due to a distinct lack of any sort of dialogue. There are little to no instances of Holmesian revelatory detecting and to make matters worse, Rajan gives no sense of time lapse and litters the stories with a seemingly endless string of real life, and literary, public figures including the likes of Shaw’s Colonel Pickering, the aforementioned Kipling and some of his characters, Helena Blavatsky, Annie Besant, the Duke of Clarence and even a young Mohammad Ali Jinnah! Instead of solid pastiche, the reader will find himself faced with what amounts to little more than a vaguely engaging Indian travelogue narrated by Watson!
Bottom Line: A relatively weak effort at pastiche that is likely to be of more interest to Sherlockian collectors rather than readers, since it isn’t everyday that a Sherlock Holmes pastiche is published in India!...more
Jimmy Sangster has given Hammer fans some of the very best scripts to enjoy. Now he gives us his view on the history of the Studio that Dripped BloodJimmy Sangster has given Hammer fans some of the very best scripts to enjoy. Now he gives us his view on the history of the Studio that Dripped Blood (sorry for the cheese) as well as his own experiences writing in the UK as well as for American television. A truly fascinating view of the screenwriters world. Highly engaging and informative. Thanks Jimmy!...more
The basic premise was essentially to document the hows and whys of Holmes visit to Tibet during the great hiatus. The intriguing bit is that the amusiThe basic premise was essentially to document the hows and whys of Holmes visit to Tibet during the great hiatus. The intriguing bit is that the amusing Babu, Hurree Chunder Mookerjee, of Rudyard Kipling's classic work, Kim, narrates the story. As a fan of the Flashman books as well as being interested in the British presence in India, I found the book to be a vital addition to my collection. By making the narrator someone other than Watson, the author did himself a great favour. The biggest fault with most pastiches is the inability of the author to effectively mimic the voice of Watson. Thankfully Norbu doesn't try, and it has been far too long since I read Kim to take exception with the voice of Huree.
The story begins with Holmes arrival in India, as Sigerson of course. Huree is an agent of the Raj and is assigned to keep an eye on the unlikely foreigner. I rather liked that one of Holmes' first lines to Huree was "You have been in Afghanistan I perceive." That one familiar line would pretty much define the relationship between these two characters. Much of the next few chapters are spent in creating a bond between these two unlikely fellows and all handled rather effectively I thought. The characterization of Holmes is fairly good, even if he is prone to quoting a bit too much Horace. He is also somewhat distant, and is clearly exploring, to some degree, the meaning of life. Myself, I was expecting Holmes to become involved at Mycroft's request in the fascinating double-play of Kipling's Great Game, which surprisingly, he doesn't. Holmes is of course on the run from the minions of the late Professor Moriarty, which begs the question as to why he would venture into Moran's home ground, and is besieged on all fronts. After an encounter with a giant red leech and a group of dacoits or more correctly Thugs, we move onto the trip to Tibet. The intrigues and action are both excellent. Norbu knows his plot pacing.
The journey is not quite as evocative as I had hoped, as it goes rather quickly, which progresses the story admirably, but leaves me without the details of Indian life that I had hoped for. On arrival in Tibet, we find that Holmes has been expected and is requested to help defend the life of the youthful Dalai Lama to be. He turns the request down flat, but of course ends up doing the right thing. It is on the night of the attack that brings Holmes round that the story suddenly veers into left field. It was at this point that what I thought was going to be one of the better pastiches that I had ever read turned suddenly sour. While I expected a good deal of mysticism in this story, I certainly wasn't prepared for the revelations presented here. I found myself thinking of Robert Lee Hall's Exit Sherlock Holmes rather than Kipling's "Kim". Pretty much the last thing I was expecting actually. The revelation of the identity of the "Dark One" who was behind the whole thing left me cold, particularly as I was half expecting Fu Manchu to make an appearance. Well, he didn't, but I won't spoil the finish for any of those curious enough to tackle this book, but I will say that a good deal of paranormal activity takes place and that the motivation for Holmes trip to Tibet is a huge let down. Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of the book, but can't give it the recommendation that I had hoped for. The writing style is exemplary for a pastiche, as is the representation of Holmes, but...in the end I was not satisfied. If you enjoy the X- Files and don't mind mixing Holmes with the paranormal, then you really will love this, but for me, it missed the mark.
Originally published by Harper Collins Publishers India, the book is now readily available in UK and US editions. ...more
To begin, I must comment on the physical nature of the book itself. This is a rare and fine example of quality book design. Clearly a good deal of thoTo begin, I must comment on the physical nature of the book itself. This is a rare and fine example of quality book design. Clearly a good deal of thought and attention was given to the overall form of this publication. A rather muted dark blue dustjacket covers a full leatherette binding with a gilt stamped floral design on the front panel. A very nice touch when compared to the usual publishers output; which generally exhibits the aesthetic creativity of a, less than well planned, cardboard box! More importantly the book is bound in such a manner that it can be laid flat without causing the binding to crack, a necessary feature as the book is over 600 pages in length and weighs in at about 4 1/2 pounds. I only mention all of this as it is so rare these days to see such thoughtfulness applied by the publishing trade. I am genuinely impressed with this Camden House publication, which incidentally was formed by the author.
The story itself is yet another pastiche that explores the doings of Sherlock Holmes during that intriguing period known as the Great Hiatus. Clearly the remarks made by Holmes to Watson, explaining his activities after his supposed death, offer a great temptation to the writer who wishes to legitimately place Holmes on foreign soil.
"I travelled for two years in Tibet, therefore, and amused myself by visiting Lhasa and spending some days with the head Lama. You may have read of the remarkable explorations of a Norwegian named Sigerson, but I am sure that it never occurred to you that you were receiving news of your friend. I then passed through Persia, looked in at Mecca, and paid a short but interesting visit to the Khalifa at Khartoum, the results of which I have communicated to the Foreign Office." - The Empty House
That description is essentially the basis for the current volume and the forthcoming second volume as well, which is to be published as The Holmes Report Vol. 2 - The Egypt Question. A second quotation is also a contributor to the contents of the present volume. It is made by Mycroft Holmes:
"In the present state of Siam it is most awkward that I should be away from the office." - The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans
It is this statement which gives the author (a resident of Thailand) an excuse to bring Siam into the narrative. A thin reason, but one that helps to authenticate the major plot points. Happily, it all hangs together rather well.
The story opens on April 6, 1894, the morning after Colonel Moran's botched attempt on Holmes' life. A letter is received from Moriarty's brother and Holmes is called in on a rather too grisly and graphically presented murder case. In the midst of all this, Mycroft calls Holmes and Watson in to a meeting. During the course of the meeting, it is revealed that Sherlock had spent his time during the hiatus, in the service of Her Majesty's Government, under specific directions from Mycroft. Fortunately for the reader, Holmes had a companion during his travels who kept extremely detailed journals of their doings. The companion was the French detective Francois Le Villard, who is casually mentioned in 'The Sign of Four' as having translated some of Holmes' monographs into the French language. Mycroft's commission for Watson is to draft the journals into a cohesive and confidential report for the Government. Thus the stage is set for the dual narratives that make up the book. As Holmes investigates the current murder case, Watson reviews Le Villard's journals. Needless to say, both stories are strongly connected. The use of Le Villard as companion is a good device. He is presented as talented young Frenchman with an interest in rock climbing, which is the reasoning for his being chosen to assist Holmes on his penetration into mountainous Tibet. By using him as the filter through which we, the readers, view Holmes, the author has cleverly managed the feat of describing Holmes in uncharacteristic situations without having to contort Watson's inimitable style. The minor behavioral differences noticeable in Holmes can be attributed to Le Villard's observational ability rather than being regarded as deviations from Watson's own writings, and so manages to maintain a very high degree of credibility. Incidentally, this is a lesson that more writers of pastiches should learn.
The first third of the book (Part One) deals with our heroes journey to and adventures within Tibet, which makes up the first of four journals written by Le Villard. Much is made of the political 'Great Game', which is all handled rather convincingly and deals with Russian and Chinese influence in the region. The tone of the entire book is grounded in this sort of 'real world' sensibility. It does take away from the usual 'always 1895' fantasy world that we are all accustomed to, but does make for a more, for lack of better terms, gritty and realistic read. Unfortunately the purpose for visiting Lhasa is thin at best, and doesn't seem worth the trouble. As our heroes leave Tibet, moving towards Turkistan, they manage to sabotage a Russian weapons factory and become involved with a great little save-the-princess-bride-from-slavers scenario. A few minor adventures ensue, but the first journal ends in the Spring of 1892, just as Holmes and Le Villard are about to head off to Mecca. The journals continue with the fourth volume, which takes place in Siam in 1893, leaving a one-year gap, and two missing journals. The gap is to be filled in the second book of The Holmes Report - The Egypt Question.
Meanwhile, back in 1894 London, we have Holmes and Watson pursuing the now escaped Colonel Moran and investigating what appears to be a resurgence of the Moriarty gang.
The remaining two thirds of the book (Part Two) takes up Le Villard's fourth journal and the narrative of happenings in Siam. The author clearly has a strong interest in Siamese history and culture, as he spends much more time in this setting than in Tibet. A very rich and detailed picture of the Siamese backdrop is presented to the reader. Much of the political nature of this section deals with Siam's attempts at maintaining independence in the face of French and British colonial expansion. The subplots abound here and became quite complex as Holmes is faced with protecting the Leading Adviser from assassination threats, the unexpected reappearance of Irene Adler and Godfrey Norton and Le Villard's romantic entanglements. During all this, Holmes has time to learn something of the art of Thai boxing (kickboxing) and manages to get a tattoo as well. Airguns, bombs and a hunt for the Great Mogul diamond also figure in the narrative. Sounds faintly ridiculous, but the author weaves it all together in a fairly interesting manner. All this is also tied into the doings of Moran and a world conspiracy involving the Moriarty gang. At the centre of all the intrigue is the rather pathetic figure of Godfrey Norton. We are clearly in deep waters here...
From Siam, Holmes returns to London on the heels of Godfrey Norton, which brings us full circle to the beginning of the book. At this point all the loose subplots are drawn together in a somewhat more traditional fashion. Watson is once again the primary voice and all is revealed...but not by me!
After investing in 603 pages of story, I can say that the book is a worthwhile read. A very different sort of pastiche that has me looking forward to the publication of the second book. My only real complaints are about the previously mentioned lack of good reasoning behind the Tibet sequences and the somewhat overwritten style of the author. Frankly, a stronger hand in the editing stage would have been welcome to this reader. Still, a fantastic book for a first time author, and a wonderful addition to the pastiche shelf. ...more