F.R.'s Reviews > The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Whitechapel Horrors

The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Edward B. Hanna
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Jun 12, 2015

it was ok

One of the most crucial elements in the original Sherlock Holmes stories is the narration. Having Watson present, witnessing events and then capturing the quicksilver genius of Holmes in his sharp and unfussy prose, is of course massively important to the success of the tales. (As proof of this, see those later stories which Conan-Doyle had Holmes narrate. They are amongst the weakest.) The good Doctor is of course a reader substitute, there to have these wonderful deductions explained to him and make everything clear. Without Watson we’d be lost.

It’s therefore curious that Edward B. Hanna – clearly something of an expert on Holmes/Watson – opts for a third person narration for his ‘Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper’ tale. This decision unbalances the book right from the start. The narration floats around the action and characters, to the extent that at points we’re given access to Sherlock Holmes’ own thoughts and feelings – and that has the odd effect of making him a somewhat more real, but much smaller character. Yes, we get to know more of his habits and about his weariness at the end of the day, but seeing these private corners of the man is a bit like a magician showing the mechanics of his tricks. Anyone’s thoughts are mundane if you spend enough with them, and one thing that Sherlock Holmes isn’t normally is mundane. What’s more, Hanna opts for a very Nigel Bruce-esque slow and stupid Watson (who also harbours some fairly reactionary political views). At one point Watson thinks his assistance to Holmes is of “minimal, perhaps even questionable, value”. If that’s so, why would Holmes keep him around? Yes, the Conan-Doyle version does lack Sherlock’s genius, but he is a qualified doctor (therefore not totally stupid) and a decent man, and as such does lend a lot of help to Sherlock. They are a team after all.

The book wears its knowledge heavily, weaving Holmes’s investigation into the Jack the Ripper timeline and around the existing canon of tales. (Hanna clearly liked to play The Game, whereby Holmes fans treat these adventures as real and date them to the Victorian calendar.) There are extensive notes at the end of the book, reminiscent of a Flashman novel, which show how much research the novelist has gone into. Unfortunately, what emerges the other side is some awfully pedestrian prose and some clunking expository dialogue, all leading up to a disappointingly weak ending. Given their closeness in proximity, Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes are natural rivals, I just wish someone would produce a sharper telling of the tale.
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