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4.0 out of 5 starsFairly good pastiches.
Reviewed in the United States on February 5, 2015
These pastiches are not bad, but nothing exceptional, either. The dialog is rather spare and formal but it's well enough written and does not contain the distracting misspellings and grammatical errors that seem to permeate many recent pastiches. The clues seem sometimes to fall into Holmes's lap. Holmes and Watson seem strangely obsessed with marmalade and trains, respectively. The main strength of the stories is the accurate information about turn-of-the-century technology. There is some humour. A police inspector is amusingly named Shershay. I'd read more by the author.
3.0 out of 5 starsI was overall disappointed with this book although some of the stories were ...
Reviewed in the United States on July 6, 2015
I was overall disappointed with this book although some of the stories were interesting. Two features that I didn't like were 1. The author felt he had to give a plot overview before each story (I guess this was to help the reader know which ones to skip over in case of a reread. and 2. The stories sometimes took huge leaps (you have a million possible suspect - Holmes finds his man by the way a desk is organized? in one day? Too great a leap.
This is my first encounter of a book by Leslie Coombs and must say, it ranks in the ordinary realm. The stories are pretty straightforward coming across in many instances like Conan Doyle originals but although the reader is presented many examples of the famed Holmes deductions, the stories tend to be pretty linear lacking many unexpected twists and turns. It's mostly a crime is committed, Holmes is called, the crime is solved and the end. Possibly Mr Coombs was writing for a younger crowd.
One large detriment was each story started with a blurb in some cases summing up the entire story. You would think that something titled a 'Mystery' wouldn't tell the reader what to expect. At the very least, doing that didn't, to my mind, enhance any of the accounts and left a Why-bother-to-read-this feeling in a number of them. For those meeting the Holmes/Watson pastiches for the first time, this should prove an acceptable read just not a great one.
Although not being overboard with my praise for this offering, I have ordered Mr Coombs's other book. What is rather ironic, to my mind, was that the books advertised at the back of the book are, to my mind, top of the line. I'll be interested to see the reactions of other reviewers.
5.0 out of 5 starsReflects the hand of Conan Doyle!
Reviewed in the United States on June 26, 2016
Sherlock Holmes Plays the Game by Lee Coombs
My thanks go out to Steve and Timi at MX Publishing for my review copy of this excellent anthology.
This book contains two two-part stories and an additional eight short stories. The stories vary in length, pacing and plot, yet I feel they all have been well written in the style of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
They introduce a new Scotland Yard contact in the person of Superintendant Shershay. Unlike Lestrade who has to be pushed into accepting Holmes’ solutions, Superintendant Shershay makes Holmes’ ideas the working hypothesis. Holmes must be proven wrong for Shershay, while with Lestrade Holmes is the last resort for a detective who feels superior.
The stories also include a new antagonist, Moriarty’s protégée Tresscot-Jones, a man who appears multiple times in these stories…
I give the book five stars!
“The Lost Play” starts with the theft of a supposed lost play of Shakespeare. The plan was too perfect not to have been carefully thought out. Once the theft takes place, Holmes must search for a collector who would finance such a theft. Only such a collector would dare take possession of this forgotten play…
“The Dark on Dark Mystery” is an investigation into an impossible theft. For the job to be pulled off, the most careful planning and timing must be followed. It helps a lot that the thief seems to be both invisible and able to slither through openings deemed too small to admit a human form…
“The Wrecker” is the tragic tale of someone who is purposeful in causing train wrecks. All of the trains are from the same Railway Company, Central British Railway. The Wrecker sends the railway a ransom note, offering to cease and desist for £10,000…
“An East Wind” concerns a body near the railway which could not have been taken to that spot by any murderer. There are no traces of footprints, drag marks, or indications of it being thrown from a train. A balloon would have had to tack against the wind, which would seem to rule out dropping from above. Then there is the fact that the dead man wears clothes not tailored for him and therefore much too small…
“The Devil’s Tooth” involves a stolen racehorse. A ransom of £5,000 must be paid, left atop The Devil’s Tooth, a natural rock formation nearby. The rock seems fully visible at all times, yet a horseman snatches the ransom in broad daylight…
“The Chevereux Letter” is about a stolen painting by Rubens. The nephew of the owner is suspected, but released for lack of evidence and a proven alibi. But Simon de Chevereux’s servants state that the nephew of the owner is likely guilty. They indicate he probably was looking for a letter from Mary, Queen of Scotts, passed down in the family for decades…
“The Barred Door Puzzle” has to do with Professor Sylvanus Tommason of St. Edmonds, Cambridge. The Professor was discovered in his room shot through the skull, slumped in a chair with the gun still in his hand. The door had been barred by moving a chest of drawers to block it. Inspector Naoks of the local police thinks something isn’t exactly cut and dried with the death. For one thing, the gun is in the wrong hand…
“The Whistles that Did Not Sound” is the incident of a bank robbery, complete with the kidnapping of the Banker and his family! The Banker is forced to aid the robbers, who show him the cut-off finger of his wife to back up their ill intentions. Trying to pinpoint the thieves’ hideout requires listening to railroad engine whistles, and for the one which were not there…
“The Tarrant Valley Alibi” revolves around the theft of a Viking Hoard discovered recently after a landslide. Joel Hedger is suspected due to his club-foot, as the thief wore a special shoe. The accused was supposed to be playing ballinhol at a tavern with friends. They remember because a fire broke out in a nearby woodshed and Hedger helped put it out.
(Note: The case is brought to 221B via telegram from Holmes’ cousin Wellbos, Chief Constable of Wessex.)
“The Electrified Cannon” ends the book with a tale of military intrigue. A cannon has been created that can fire a shell fifty miles. Someone has stolen a key element of the gun, and it is feared that the information will pass on to an enemy of Britain…
This book reads well and is pleasant but the stories rarely reach a satisfying Holmesian conclusion, you are often left wondering whether this is part of a plan that will lead to something but it doesn't. There are none of the usual obvious faults, a few proofreader slips but they are nothing. Also for some reason Holmes seems addicted to marmalade, I like the stuff myself, but this Holmes seems related to Paddington Bear. Can I also add Watson didn't have a sister, not even a sister in law, as his only sibling was a brother who died of alcoholism.
Extraordinarily simple and unimaginative plots, pedestrian narrative style with hardly a touch of the hat to the canon and proof reading errors (albeit the latter is not the fault of the author). All-in-all thoroughly disappointing experience.