Wolf's Reviews > The Shadows of Sherlock Holmes

The Shadows of Sherlock Holmes by David Stuart Davies
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's review
Jun 15, 2011

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Read from June 15 to December 04, 2011

This collection contains no Sherlock Holmes stories. Anyone hoping to find any will be disappointed. None of the stories feature the original Great Detective and few other fictional characters cast quite such a long shadow, are quite as memorable or as engaging. It should not be a surprise then that few of the stories have central characters that are as vivid or attention grabbing. The collection is not without merit, however, and, given its price, is a decent value collection of vintage crime and detective stories.

The stories featured are of variable quality. Some are frankly rather weak: Chekhov's 'The Swedish Match' is a confused and confusing tale and possibly best skipped over entirely; 'The Episode of the Diamond Links' is more of historical interest (as an early example of a story about a con-man) but is unlikely to work for the modern reader. Others are rather better, some are genuine classics of the genre: Poe's 'The Purloined Letter', Collins' 'The Biter Bit' and one of Hornburg's Raffles stories get outings.

The collection is perhaps at its best when the stories clearly show the connection to or influence of Holmes. 'The Purloined Letter', for instance, shows one of his antecedents at his most Holmesian - Dupin's rationations clearly show the way toward's Holmes's deductions. 'A Clever Capture' shows us a forgotten detective (very much cast after Holmes) in good form. 'The Stolen Cigar Case' is a straight satire on the Sherlock Holmes stories. 'Sexton Blake and the Time Killer' gives us the other Baker Street detective dealing with various elements which appear to have come from Holmes stories (a spectral hound, a foreign monarch in London with problems and the mysterious disappearance of peer and a politician) none of which are quite as they appear.

And there are engaging and interesting detectives and criminal protagonists here, even they are not Holmes. Early female detectives appear in 'A Princess's Vengeance' and 'The Stir Outside the Cafe Royal', Robert Barr's Valmont (who prefigures Christie's Poirot) appears in the delightful 'Absent Minded Coterie', Simon Carne, prince of swindlers, threatens to outdo Raffles and the blind Max Carrados is a detective as intriguing as any.

One has to accept that some stories have solutions and elements that appear a little hard to swallow these days - hypnotists given away by their eyes and a type of compulsion based on long buried ancestral memories, for example - but certain of Conan Doyle's had the same issue.

All-in-all, a mixed bag, but with some strong entries. A very solid three stars.

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