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I've always been a fan of Sherlock Holmes and have loved the short stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle, the endless film adaptations, the brilliant TV series with Jeremy Brett and have old radio versions on my iPod. However, there are differences in quality in the post Conan-Doyle Sherlock novels which aim to take the great detective and place him in new cases and sometimes new countries. There have been the inevitable Holmes and the Ripper novel's which all rather downplay the horror of the real life murders by placing them in the context of a fictional character.
This is a set of short stories written by Donald Thomas who places Holmes and Watson into new cases, however, he very successfully manages to imitate the style of the great author. In doing so he has created short stories which are believable as stories flowing from the pen of ACD. They all focus on the classic Holmes techniques of observation, deduction and reasoning.
The book is split into 6 short stories, and the blurb on the back claims that the stories will feature such real life characters as Oscar Wilde, we meet Oscar just before his famous case for libel against the Marquis of Queensbury which would ultimately lead him to being imprisoned in Reading gaol for two years. Holmes gives his advice but it's ignored and Holmes then tells Watson why Wilde will lose the case against him. Everything is of course scrupulously correct in terms of historical accuracy, even down to what Wilde used to wear and the affections of his speech.
This first adventure is in reality a bit of a short prologue introducing Holmes and Watson through the pen of Donald Thomas, the other 5 short stories are much longer and are classically in the mode of a story placed in entirety in one short story. The readers are as necessity given the bare bones of the case by someone visiting Holmes, he then reads through the clues given by the person sitting in front of him many of the issues facing the visitor. The case then speeds up or slows down as is the writers want and we are taken through an extremely enjoyable Holmes short story. All the stories are very reminiscent of the great man's work and could be mistaken by the common reader.
The best story for me is the rather enjoyably titled missive called Holmes and the Naked Cyclists in which the author has a lot of fun with the rather staid attitudes of the Victorians through a case where a farmer likes to watch young girls riding around on bicycles wearing nothing. The short stories are the perfect length at around 30 minutes reading and perfectly re-create the feeling of Victorian England, landed gentry, the inner workings of a genius and the love of a decent murder mystery.
These novels aren't the easiest to get hold off but are well worth the effort if you're a lover of Sherlock Holmes or murder mysteries in general.