Say something about yourself!
On the whole this is a far better than average collection of Sherlockian stories. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing how the different authors opted to bring Holmes to the States while respecting Conan Doyle's canon. The best tales here are excellent, most are good, and few are disappointments. The narration was fantastic - evocative and skilled with the various accents used, both British and American.
Lyndsay Faye's "The Case of Colonel Warburton's Madness" tackles one of the canonical unchronicled cases with great success, underscoring not only Holmes's impressive deductive abilities, but also Watson's inherent decency and empathy. It's a delight to have Watson relate an unsolved mystery from his days in San Francisco to help his friend battle crippling boredom. San Francisco's a compelling character here. Given how much I enjoyed Faye's DUST AND SHADOW, I'm unsurprised that I liked this so much.
In "Ghosts and the Machine," Lloyd Rose offers a fascinating glimpse into Mycroft's and Sherlock's younger years and relationship (from Mycroft's point of view, quite well done), as well as a poignant window into real-life characters from the history of the Spiritualist movement.
Steve Hockensmith's "Excerpts from an Unpublished Memoir Found in the Basement of the Home for Retired Actors" is a delight, both for the ridiculously self-important voice of its narrator and the its evocative descriptions of The Whelp (that is, a young Sherlock Holmes, "treading the boards" as a company player in the wilds of America). Great fun with lovely insights into a young but already recognizable Holmes.
Robert Pohle's "The Flowers of Utah" offers a "What if?" spin on some of the not-so-tied-up loose ends from "A Study in Scarlet," but it thinks it's cleverer than it is, and the payoff from the "infodump" doesn't justify abandoning the rest of the story as Pohle does. This fell rather flat for me, the first disappointment of a volume that's otherwise been excellent.
Loren D. Estleman's "The Adventure of the Coughing Dentist" has Holmes and Watson working with Wyatt Earp to prove Doc Holliday innocent of false charges of murder before he's lynched. The character voices are wonderful here, as is the portrait of the still young and growing friendship between Holmes and Watson.
Victoria Thompson in "The Minister's Missing Daughter" provides a mystery that's quite easily solved, but that's rather the point, as the community's and family's general assumptions about an exploited wallflower of a girl have blinded everyone from seeing the obvious truth about her fate. This is not a standout story, but it has its own quiet charm.
"The Case of Colonel Crockett's Violin" by Gillian Linscott is a story about Holmes and Watson in San Antonio determining which, among a field of several choices, is the authentic violin owned by Davy Crockett and rescued from the Alamo. A solid effort.
Bill Crider's "The Adventure of the White City" needed to be about twice as long as it is to do justice to its ambitious premise (mixing the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, Wovoka, and the Ghost Dance). Although it felt rushed and very thin in patches, the main theme was more than worthy, and I appreciate the thought behind the not-quite-fully-realized story.
In "Recalled to Life," Paula Cohen offers a story from the Great Hiatus in which Holmes saves the career of a framed former New York detective. A very satisfying story and a compelling original character.
Daniel Stashower's "The Seven Walnuts" shows a Holmes-obsessed Harry Houdini and his brother employing the Great Detective's methods to solve a local mystery after Holmes's "death." Clever, but I missed Holmes and Watson.
Matthew Pearl's "The Adventure of the Boston Dromio" is a very satisfying and complex mystery showing Holmes at the height of his deductive powers as he helps Watson save the man who once saved Watson's life. Quite well done.
Carolyn Wheat's "The Case of the Royal Queens" is another good mystery, and it offers glimpses into both Holmes's past and his future life with bees. A solid and wryly told tale.
The May-December romance for Sherlock Holmes in Michael Breathnach's "The Song at Twilight" is a bit odd and not entirely convincing, but I do appreciate how the story fits into the canon of THE VALLEY OF FEAR and "His Last Bow," and how it underscores the manner in which sovereign, country, and his brother all manipulate the aging and supposedly retired Sherlock Holmes.
Michael Walsh's essay is somewhat suggestive, if not persuasive, although I don't see how its theme (of anti-Hibernian sentiment in the canon) fits that of this volume. Christopher Redmond's piece on Doyle's travels in the United States is more descriptive than analytical, but it adds useful context to the focus of the collection. It's lovely that this volume ends with Conan Doyle's own comments on "The Romance of America."
Mitch Cullins has produced a gorgeously-written character study of a 93-year-old Sherlock Holmes who is aware of having outlived his contextual moment in time (as well as both his biographer and brother), losing his mental as well as physical abilities, and coming to the end of his days with unanswered questions about the opportunities he missed during his life and the larger meaning of existence itself. It fits very neatly into and extrapolates from the last of Arthur Conan Doyle's canonical Holmes stories, in which readers clearly can see Holmes's loneliness, existential angst, and somewhat repressed humanity asserting itself.
Cullins weaves several stories together, including the present-day (that is, 1947) mentorship relationship between Holmes and his housekeeper's son, Holmes's recent post-war journey to a devastated postwar Japan (itself in search of meaning in a new era), and Holmes's revisitation of a 1903 mystery that explains Holmes's later devotion to the study of bees. Repeated themes of suicide, pointless death, and potential natural keys to extended life (to what purpose?) raise difficult and universal questions to which Holmes -- and, for that matter, Cullins -- holds no definite answers.
I've seen some reviews suggest that this is about Holmes's regret over missing romance, which put me off a bit, but that's not what I took from this novel. It's about intellectual fascination and unlikely personal connections and the paradoxical fragility (enter pointless death) and strength (enter memory and study) of each. All three storylines -- that of Holmes's housekeeper's son, Holmes's Japanese hosts, and Holmes's 1903 subject of investigation -- reinforce and echo these themes in a beautifully crafted and achingly effective manner.
A few minor points of characterization failed to convince me, mostly related to Holmes's "slight trick of the mind," his rather ritualistic means of mourning, but these were surprisingly few and far between. On the whole, this is an absorbing and wrenching portrait, one with which all Holmesians/Sherlockians, I think, should wrestle and challenge their understanding of the Great Detective and what he represents. I'm very glad I listened to it.
"Sherlock Holmes may have been fictional," writes E.J. Wagner, "but what we learn from him is very real. He tell us that science provides not simplistic answers but a rigorous method of formulating questions that may lead to answers." The Science of Sherlock Holmes offers a history of forensic science by focusing on 1) what informed Arthur Conan Doyle's portrayal of Holmes and his method, and 2) how Holmes in turn influenced his real-life descendants. It's not a comprehensive history, but rather a thematic study of advances in various areas of forensics - ballistics, footprints, fingerprints, blood analysis, etc. - with in-depth illustrations from some of the most famous (or infamous) watershed cases in the UK and US (including Jack the Ripper and Lizzie Borden). For my purposes, wanting to get a better handle on how Holmes was informed by and then informed advances in this field, I found it to be an engaging and satisfying listen.