Agony Column

The Strand Magazine has a 2017 Sherlock Holmes Calendar. The full color calendar has quotes, photos, illustrations and trivia related to The Master for only $19.99. Check out The Strand Magazine Shop for not only the calendar, but also all things Holmesian.


Mrs. Sherlock Holmes: The True Story of New York City's Greatest Female Detective and the 1917 Missing Girl Case That Captivated a Nation is now available. Brad Ricca's enormously long sub-titled book tells the story of Mrs. Grace Humiston, a detective and lawyer who opened a legal clinic in New York City for low-income immigrant clients. The book is available at Amazon.com and your local bookseller.


Diane Madsen's Cracking the Code of the Canon: How Sherlock Holmes Made His Decisions is out in paperback, having launched in June. The book examines the stories and attempts to discern how Holmes came to his conclusions. Find it at your favorite bookstore or get it at amazon.com.


Bantam Books has published Laurie R. King's The Murder of Mary Russell. Apparently there is a nice examination of Mrs. Hudson's Life. Find it at your local bookstore or at amazon.com.


Sherlockian News

The Hillywood Show last summer posted a parody of Sherlock. You can go to YouTube to view it. Please be warned that there is some mild swearing. (We don't make these, we just report on them.--Ed.) It is a wonderfully accurate, if gender-bending, parody. Wait for the surprise guest at the end. Enjoy responsibly.


Fox has been airing Houdini & Doyle this summer in a 10-part series. Michael Weston and Stephen Mangan play the titular characters, respectively. Rebecca Liddiard plays Constable Adelaide Stratton. Excellent production values and some interesting stories, but as far as accuracy of the main characters--well, that may be fairly debatable. Purists are warned. To see more, go to Houdini & Doyle.


To read a review of Mike Ashley's new biography of A.C. Doyle, Adventures in the Strand, you can go to The Guardian.


Perhaps others were aware of this, but we were not. There is a pterosaur named for the literary agent: arthurdactylus conandoylei. Named in 1994, you can visit Reptile Evolution.com to view its morphology.


Here is the opinion rendered by the Seventh Circuit Court in the matter of International Business Times to view its morphology. Leslie S. Klinger vs. Conan Doyle Estate, Ltd. The Doyle Estate appealed the verdict to the U.S. Supreme Court, but they declined to hear the case in early November, so the lower court′s ruling stands.


And perhaps you can help solve a mystery. The British Film Institute is trying to track down a 1914 film based on A Study in Scarlet. Please go to bfi.org.uk for more information.


He's Everywhere

The following article entitled ″Spiritual Bypassing″ by Barry Magid appeared in the March 2017 edition of Lion′s Roar:


Meditation is about moment-to-moment awareness, but what about all the things you are not aware of? What if there are aspects of yourself that consistently remain out of your awareness, unremarked and unconscious? Are there clues in your life suggesting that might be the case?

Like Sherlock Holmes, we must recognize the importance of the dog that didn′t bark in the night. The dog didn′t bark because it was his master, not some stranger, who was outside committing the crime.

What is all too familiar can be what we fail to recognize. What we take for granted about our meditation practice may be what keeps it within a narrow comfort zone, languishing in the shallows of quiet, calming attention to our breath. What would happen if we stayed with precisely those feelings we came to meditation to escape?

The problem is we can get rather good at creating comfortable little mental oases for ourselves, and these become what we call good meditation sessions. That′s why I usually tell students to pay more attention to their bad meditations, when all the conflictual, messy, and ambivalent aspects of themselves feel inescapable.

Our anxiety and restlessness and irritation mark the boundary of what we're willing to accept. It′s precisely when those feelings are ″successfully″ excluded as ″not-me″ that we set the stage for spiritual bypassing--for using spiritual practice to avoid addressing important personal issues.

The problem of bypassing is not confined to the dissociation from our emotional problems and needs. What we can also bypass in our meditation is the reality of our own essential perfection. Caught in the duality of ″good″ versus ″bad″ meditation, we miss the simple fact that in being right here, right now, nothing is missing, nothing is hidden. The bark we don′t hear may be the signal that nothing is wrong after all.

This appeared in the March/April 2017 issue of AAALiving:




The October 21/28, 2016 edition of Entertainment Weekly listed the 50 Most Powerful Superheroes. Coming in at Number 20 was Robin, the writer describing Dick Grayson as ″the definitive aw-shucks sidekick, a spandex-clad Watson to the Dark Knight′s Sherlock for decades, most memorably in the 1960s Batman TV show.″


In the January/February 2017 issue of The Atlantic, Jeffrey E. Stern writes in an article entitled ″The Poison Flower,″


″In the summer of 1879, an English medical student named Arthur Conan Doyle began experimenting. Several years earlier, while seeking a cure for his nerve pain, he had learned about an exotic flower. Now he got a fresh tincture of the plant, called gelsemium, which has been known for hundreds of years to Chinese herbalists and to the hill tribes of Vietnam. He gave himself a tiny dose, less than one-tenth of a fluid ounce, and increased the amount ever so slightly each day.

″On the third day he took about one-fifth of an ounce. The effect was strange, and almost immediate. He became giddy, his limbs felt weak, and his pulse was faint. The next day, he had trouble focusing on distant objects. The day after that: headache, diarrhea and fatigue. Then came persistent and prostrating diarrhea and depression. His headache didn't abate. He deduced from his symptoms that the plant acted as a motor paralyzer, and he wasn't far off. It interferes with a receptor responsible for managing critical functions all over the body.

″Had Doyle continued increasing his dose, he would have become paralyzed and short-circuited his respiratory system. Instead, he decided he′d had enough. He submitted his findings to a journal and later gave up the practice of medicine entirely--becoming a novelist and narrating the exploits of Sherlock Holmes.″

In the July/August 2016 issue of The Atlantic, Terrence Rafferty writes in an article entitled ″The Deep Secrets of the Gone Girl Era″: ″As a young reader, I favored Sherlock Holmes stories and intricate puzzles of the Agatha Christie and John Dickson Carr sort....″ Later, he writes, ″A male detective in [Tana] French′s The Secret Place (2014), after spending a few hours questioning the 16-year-old boarders at a school outside Dublin about a murder, blurts out, ′If I′ve learned one thing today, it′s that teenage girls make Moriarty look like a babe in the woods.′ (For mystery-story innocents, and non-initiates in the cult of Cumberbatch: That′s Professor Moriarty, the evil genius who is the arch-nemesis of Sherlock Holmes.″


In the July/August 2016 issue of the Smithsonian, an article about pioneering dinosaur expert and geologist Baron Franz Nopsca has the following: ″There is no easy explanation for why Nopsca has been overlooked for so long. In recent years, a loose international brotherhood of paleobiologists, Albanologists and LGBT activists has emerged hoping to earn him a more prominent place in history. Some point to Nopsca′s sexuality as the reason for his persistent obscurity, and Dacian [the author's guide in Transylvania] acknowledges that in a country as religious as Romania, the generally held belief that Nopsca was gay (which available evidence seems to corroborate) has been a hurdle in his campaign to restore the baron′s legacy. But Dacian is circumspect, maintaining that Nopsca′s relationship with [Nopsca′s secretary Bajazid Elmaz] Doda could have been an intimate male friendship in keeping with the adventure books of the time, like those of Karl May, which Nopsca loved. Dacian proposes something on the spectrum of Sherlock and Watson, Kipling and Gunga Din, a faithful manservant kind of thing. I introduce him to the term ′bromance,′ which he loves. ′Yes,′ he says. ′A bromance.′″


A photo in the August 1, 2016, issue of the TBT has an interesting caption, as shown here:




Here's a photo of a business sign in downtown Tampa:




Reporter Dan Mihalopoulos in the Feb 10 Chicago Sun-Times warned that Scotland Yard should not hire Chicago’s former police commander Garry McCarthy. ″Have you gone bloody mad?" he wrote. ″In Chicago, McCarthy has been called ′Garry Poppins′ ...It won’t take Sherlock Holmes to find out there's a lot more...to the Chicago police conduct and black lives than what appeared in McCarthy’s highly sanitized job application.″


Peter Blau reports that Patrick Sherlock Holmes ″was arrested for possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia during the ′Operation Safe Watch′ compliance check on registered sex offenders in Monticello,″ Arkansas. No pressure apparently to live up to your namesake, I guess.


Reviews

Philip Jones has been providing us with book reviews for quite some time, so we thought we would give him some webspace. Take it, Phil....



The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories Part I

The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories Part II

The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories Part III

The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories Part IV

Mycroft Holmes

Sherlock Holmes in Japan



The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories Part I: 1881-1889

Type of material: Hardcover book

Publisher: MX Publications, London

Year: 2015

Editor: David Marcum

This book is the first of a series of three Sherlockian anthology volumes from MX Publications and it includes stories set in the period 1881 through 1889. All of the authors have donated their royalties for this publication to the support of Undershaw.

The first volume includes twenty-three short stories and one poem.

The poem is ″Sherlock Holmes of London,″ by Michael Kurland, a set of four quatrains that effectively evoke the place where ″...it is always 1895.″ Most of the rest of the tales are short stories. ″The Adventure of the Slipshod Charlady,″ by John Hall, is the first effort I know of to tell the Untold Tale of ″... a slipshod elderly woman″ cited in STUD. ″The Case of the Lichfield Murder,″ by Hugh Ashton, tells of the grisly case of ″…Henry Staunton, whom I helped to hang,″ cited in MISS. ″The Kingdom of the Blind,″ by Adrian Middleton, shows the true reason for the Vatican′s Index Librorem Prohibitorem, the evils that these books stir up in the credulous. ″The Adventure of the Pawnbroker’s Daughter,″ by David Marcum, gives us a glimpse of true evil, wrapped in an enticing package. ″The Adventure of the Defenestrated Princess,″ by Jayantika Ganguly, shows us Holmes and Watson coping with the tribulations of a love-sick 16-year-old Princess, grimly determined to fulfil her duty to marry while pursued by five aged suitors grimly determined to secure her considerable dowry and her father′s political influence.

″The Adventure of the Inn on the Marsh,″ by Dennis O. Smith takes me back to his ″Chronicles″ collections in what is, perhaps, his best tale yet. ″The Adventure of the Travelling Orchestra,″ by Amy Thomas, deserved to be, at least, a novella. Her intense characters and their complications need more space to unfold than was available in this shortened format. ″The Haunting of Sherlock Holmes,″ by Kevin David Barratt, vividly shows an important but neglected side of the Holmes/Watson relationship. ″The Allegro Mystery,″ by Luke Benjamen Kuhns, tells the tale of Holmes′ effort to furnish Watson with a wife in the midst of a mystery. ″The Deadly Soldier,″ by Summer Perkins, gives us a perfect picture of the meeting of The Professor and Colonel Sebastian Moran. ″The Case of the Vanishing Stars,″ by Deanna Baran, introduces Holmes and Watson into the world of the Music Halls, where a widowed performer/owner is coping with a variety of problems.

″The Song of the Mudlark,″ by Shane Simmons, is told by Wiggins, as he introduces us to the newest Irregular who is taking a giant step up from the occupation of mudlark. ″The Tale of the Forty Thieves,″ by C. H. Dye, tells the Untold Tale of the Paradol Chamber as cited in FIVE and does so most imaginatively. ″The Strange Missive of Germaine Wilkes,″ by Mark Mower, recounts Watson′s first introduction to the problem of Professor Moriarty. In ″The Case of the Vanished Killer,″ by Derrick Belanger, we are introduced to ″Buffalo Bill″ Cody when Inspector Lestrade suspects some of Cody′s Indians may have committed a double murder. ″The Adventure of the Aspen Papers,″ by Daniel D. Victor, brings Henry James to ask Sherlock′s help with a problem that ultimately inspires him to write a novel. ″The Ululation of Wolves,″ by Steve Mountain, poses an insidious locked-room mystery for Holmes, with a pack of wolves thrown in to cloud the matter further.

″The Case of the Vanishing Inn,″ by Stephen Wade, tells of a terrifying encounter with the Professor by Watson and Inspector Lestrade. ″The King of Diamonds,″ by John Sherwood, involves Holmes and Watson in a poisoning case that the police have blamed on the obvious suspects on circumstantial evidence. ″The Adventure of the Urquhart Manse,″ by Will Thomas, presents an ″obvious″ mystery then quickly wanders off into a strange byway.

Casual readers of the Sherlockian tales are generally not aware that there is a problem involving ″The Adventure of the Second Stain (SECO).″ This tale is mentioned in two earlier tales, ″The Yellow Face″ (YELL) and ″The Naval Treaty″ (NAVA), but those citations do not describe the tale of that name published in December, 1904. In ″The Adventure of the Seventh Stain,″ the only novella in this volume, Daniel McGachey explains in great detail both that problem and the investigation of ″The First Adventure of the Second Stain (SEC1).″ ″The Two Umbrellas,″ by Martin Rosenstock, tells of an enigmatic encounter between Mycroft Holmes and Professor Moriarty over a matter of espionage. ″The Adventure of the Fateful Malady,″ by Craig Janacek, involves Holmes and Watson with a recurrence of the Black Death and tells the Untold tale of his ″professional service...for Sir James Saunders (SIRJ)″ as cited in BLAN.

This first volume, on its own, is the finest anthology of Sherlockian fiction I have ever read. All of the stories were interesting and readable and several were outstanding. The last Sherlockian fiction I felt to be outstanding was Neil Gaiman’s ″A Study in Emerald,″ and it won an Edgar. I look forward eagerly to reading Volumes 2 and 3.

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The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories Part II: 1890-1895

Type of material: Hardcover book

Publisher: MX Publications, London/p>

Year: 2015

Editor: David Marcum

This book is the second of a series of three Sherlockian anthology volumes from MX Publications and it includes stories set in the period 1890 through 1895. All of the authors have donated their royalties for this publication to the support of Undershaw.

The second volume includes nineteen short stories and one poem.

The poem is ″The Bachelor of Baker Street Muses on Irene Adler,″ by Carole Nelson Douglas. It is an interesting collection of verses that examines Sherlock′s attitude towards ″The Woman.″ ″The Affair of Miss Finney,″ by Ann Margaret Lewis examines an oft neglected crime, rape, and displays the varying attitudes toward this crime in Victorian times. ″The Adventure of the Bookshop Owner,″ by Vincent W. Wright presents a complex murder rooted in an obscure past. ″The Singular Case of the Unrepentant Husband,″ by William Patrick Maynard explains the identity of Mrs. Turner, who appeared in ″A Scandal in Bohemia″ (SCAN) and was never seen again. It also presents an apparently supernatural occurrence as well as an apparently similar comeuppance. ″The Verse of Death,″ by Matthew Booth presents a locked room murder with a surprising history.

″Lord Garnett’s Skulls,″ by J. R. Campbell combines mistaken gossip, old Victorian practices and inabilities to ″listen″ into a complex investigation for Holmes. ″Larceny in the Sky with Diamonds,″ by Robert V. Stapleton tells us of the Professor′s last caper before he heads off to the Reichenbach to meet Holmes. Sam Wiebe′s ″The Glennon Falls″ tells of a shaping incident in Professor Moriarty’s past that helped lead him to the Reichenbach. In ″The Adventure of the Sleeping Cardinal,″ by Jeremy Branton Holstein, Watson and Insp. Lestrade investigate a robbery for Mycroft during ″The Great Hiatus.″ ″The Case of the Anarchist′s Bomb,″ by Bill Crider, precedes ″The Adventure of the Empty House″ by a month or so as Mycroft asks Watson to investigate a bombing that killed an anarchist.

″The Riddle of the Rideau Rifles,″ by Peter Calamai, originally appeared in an anthology devoted to adventure tales centered on the Rideau Canal Waterway. This updated edition tells of an attempt by Canadian unionists to stir up trouble with the USA. Lyndsay Faye′s ″The Adventure of the Willow Basket″ tells of Lestrade′s feelings about ″The Great Hiatus″ and introduces a truly remarkable murder weapon. ″The Onion Vendor’s Secret,″ by Marcia Wilson, introduces the reader to a remarkable brotherhood that grew up in England in the 19th Century and ties up some loose ends from The Hound of the Baskervilles. Jack Grochot′s ″The Case of the Murderous Numismatist″ introduces the reader to one of Holmes′ informers and to a remarkable policewoman as well as to a murderous coiner. Bert Coules gives us ″The Saviour of Cripplegate Square″ which was written as the fifth hour-long episode of the BBC radio series, ″The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.″ These episodes were written to tell Untold Tales and this is the tale of ″...the most winning woman I ever knew....″ as cited in The Sign of Four. It is chilling, on several levels.

″A Study in Abstruse Detail,″ by Wendy C. Fries clarifies several Untold Tales cited in the Canon. These include ″The famous Smith-Mortimer succession case″ cited in ″The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez,″ ″Venomous lizard, or Gila...″ cited in ″The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire″ and ″...the case of Vamberry, the wine merchant...,″ cited in ″The Musgrave Ritual.″ ″The Adventure of St. Nicholas the Elephant,″ by Christopher Redmond tells of how Holmes solved a most puzzling murder on the grounds of an historic church using observation and deduction. In ″The Lady on the Bridge,″ Mike Hogan tells of Holmes fostering ″true love″ by deterring a persistent, elderly suitor and aiding an eligible bachelor to marry a winsome French mademoiselle, or so it seems. In ″The Adventure of the Poison Tea Epidemic,″ professional chemist Carl Heifetz describes Holmes′ ″...researches in Early English charters...″ cited in ″The Adventure of the Three Students″ along with his findings. ″The Man on Westminster Bridge,″ by Dick Gillman, has Holmes and Watson investigate a unique method of cheating in a Gentleman’s club at the request of Mycroft.

This second volume continues the excellent tradition set by the first book in the series. There are fewer stories and not quite so many outstanding ones, but the good tales are very good and their number includes most of the tales in the book. All are worth reading, a few are outstanding and most are very good indeed

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The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories Part III: 1896-1929

Type of material: Hardcover book

Publisher: MX Publications, London/p>

Year: 2015

Editor: David Marcum

This book is the third of a series of four Sherlockian anthology volumes from MX Publications and it includes stories set in the period 1896 through 1929. All of the authors have donated their royalties for this publication to the support of Undershaw. It includes twenty-one short stories and novellas as well as a pair of poems.

The poems are a pair of elegant sonnets by Bonnie MacBird; ″Out of the Fog″ and ″The Art of Detection.″ The sonnet form is difficult and the two of these fit both the tongue and the mind. In ″Harbinger of Death,″ a short story by Geri Schear, Holmes is asked to help a young lady whose elderly aunt believes she is cursed to die on Friday the thirteenth. ″The Adventure of the Regular Passenger,″ a novella by Paul D. Gilbert, tells the tale of ″...the peculiar persecution to which John Vincent Harden, the well-known tobacco millionaire, had been subjected” as cited in ″The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist.″ ″The Perfect Spy,″ a novella by Stuart Douglas, tells of murder and Boer spies in a world where unsuitable suitors and heiresses may not mix. ″A Mistress – Missing″ is a short story by Lyn McConchie that tells of an odd client who asks Holmes to find a missing lady and then pays him in kind.

″Two Plus Two″ is a short story by Phil Growick that has Holmes exploring homonyms and their odd occurrences. ″The Adventure of the Coptic Patriarch″ is a novella by Seamus Duffy that tells an Untold Tale cited in ″The Adventure of the Retired Colourman.″ In ″The Royal Arsenal Affair,″ a short story by Leslie F. E. Coombs, Holmes is asked by brother Mycroft to investigate the theft of an unspecified apparatus from Woolwich Royal Arsenal. ″The Adventure of the Sunken Parsley,″ a short story by Mark Alberstat, tells an Untold Tale cited in ″The Adventure of the Six Napoleons.″ The author assures me that this is entirely different than an earlier story on the same subject, published in ″The Hounds Collection [#01].″ In the haunting ″The Strange Case of the Violin Savant,″ a short story by G. C. Rosenquist, Holmes meets a child prodigy violinist with communication problems.

In the short story, ″The Hopkins Brothers Affair,″ by Iain McLaughlin and Clair Bartlett, Holmes is asked to find a missing ship by its captain′s brother. In ″The Disembodied Assassin,″ a short story by Andrew Lane, Holmes is asked by Mycroft to solve a classic ″locked room″ mystery, which he does like clockwork. In ″The Adventure of the Dark Tower,″ a short story by Peter K. Andersson, Watson comes across an historical mystery that seems to lap over into the present day. ″The Adventure of the Reluctant Corpse,″ a short story by Matthew J. Elliott, presents Holmes and Watson with a living man Watson previously declared dead. Later, his corpse shows up again and the real mystery begins. ″The Inspector of Graves″ is a script of a radio episode written by Jim French that was first broadcast July 16th, 2006. It recounts a grave robbery that never happened. ″The Parson′s Son″ is a short story by Bob Byrne. It recounts the preliminary investigations by Holmes of the Edalji case which led him to ask Watson to bring it to Doyle′s attention. ″The Adventure of the Botanist′s Glove″ is a short story by James Lovegrove that presents a most ingenious murder method.

″A Most Diabolical Plot,″ a short story by Tim Symonds, tells of a truly complex plan by recently released Sebastian Moran to assassinate Holmes. ″The Opera Thief″ is a short story by Larry Millet. It occurs after Holmes takes Watson to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, for gall bladder surgery and is one of the most tragic tales in this collection. ″Blood Brothers,″ a novella by Kim Krisko, presents two sets of brothers whose actions declare which are the wealthier pair. ″The Adventure of the White Bird″ is another novella, this time by C. Edward Davis. It recounts some of the early aviation efforts to fly the Atlantic for Ortieg′s prize that ended with Lindbergh’s successful landing in Paris. ″The Adventure of the Avaricious Bookkeeper″ is a novella by Joel and Carolyn Senter. In it, Holmes and Watson investigate a puzzle for Mrs. Hudson′s niece as

This third volume continues the tradition set by the first two books in the series. The twenty-three items in this book include only two that I would rate as excellent, however, it also contains only six I would rate as good. The other fourteen are all very good and that gives the entire volume a rating of″very good″ by any standard.

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The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories Part IV: 2016 Annual

Type of material: Hardcover book

Publisher: MX Publications, London/p>

Year: 2016

Editor: David Marcum

This book is the fourth in a series of Sherlockian anthology volumes from MX Publications and the new title addition indicated that the publisher plan to continue this remarkable series. All of the authors have donated their royalties for this publication to the support of Undershaw. It includes twenty-two short stories and novellas as well as a poem.

The poem is a ″Toast to Mrs. Watson,″ by Arlene Mantin Levy, written as a series of rhymed couplets. ″The Tale of the First Adventure″ is a short story by Derrick Belanger that tells how Sherlock learned to restrict the details he passes on to clients in his first real case. In ″The adventure of the Turkish Cypher,″ a short story by Deanna Baran, Holmes uncovers a poisoning, but avoids telling his client the details behind it. ″The Adventure of the Missing Necklace,″ a short story by Daniel D. Victor, recounts how Holmes acquired his distaste for fictionalized versions of his cases. ″The Case of the Rondel Dagger″ is a novella by Mark Mower that tells of Holmes′ investigation of murder by minions of an ancient secret society, or so it would seem. In ″The Adventure of the Double-edged Hoard,″ a novella by Craig Janacek, Holmes is introduced to an ancient and horrible relic of the Viking raiders. ″The Adventure of the Impossible Murders″ is a short story by Jayantika Ganguly that tells of suspiciously related natural deaths caused by unlikely murderers.

″The Watcher in the Woods″ is a novella by Dennis O. Smith that tells of a strange case Holmes accepted involving alchemy and a disappearing watcher of a house of madness. ″Relating to One of My Old Cases,″ a short story by J. R. Campbell, links two recent murders to one Holmes investigated years before with unanswered questions. ″The Adventure at Beau Soleil,″ a short story by Bonnie MacBird, relates an incident in Nice when Holmes aids a house detective in return for lodgings for him and Watson. ″The Adventure of the Phantom Coachman″ is a short story by Arthur Hall that mixes spies, thieves and phantoms all in a single muddle for Holmes to untangle. ″The Adventure of the Arsenic Dumplings,″ a short story by Bob Byrne, tells of a cook arrested for attempted murder and convicted in public opinion by non-existent evidence. ″The Disappearing Anarchist Trick″ a novella by Andrew Lane, pits Holmes and Watson against a magician in a case investigated for Mycroft.

This fourth volume continues the tradition set by the first three books in the series. The twenty-three items in this book include twice as many that I rate as excellent as the few I rate only as good. All the rest I rate as very good and that gives the entire volume a rating of ″excellent″ as compared to any other Anthology.

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Mycroft Holmes

Type of material: Hardcover book

Publisher: Titan Books

Year: 2015

Author: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, with Anna Waterhouse

This book tells of an adventure of Mycroft Holmes during his early years of Service to The Crown. It presents fans of Sherlock Holmes with a new vision of Mycroft and Sherlock at a time in their lives that we have not seen before. Mycroft is young and idealistic, hoping that he will prove worthy of the trust put in him by the Government and Crown he feels represent the world of order and civilization. Sherlock is young, surly and impatient, straining to find an outlet for his energy and talents.

The story unfolds as an increasingly complex mystery. Readers are introduced to Mycroft who is engaged to the daughter of a Trinidad Plantation owner attending college in London. One of Mycroft′s friends is a half-caste black East-Indian from Trinidad who works at a Tobacco shop. This friend tells Mycroft of a recurrence of attacks on children in Trinidad by supernatural Lougarou, giant mosquito-like creatures who suck the blood from children. Word of this reaches Mycroft′s fiancée and she becomes determined to return home to deal with the situation, so Mycroft informs his superior of ″tensions″ in Trinidad and maneuvers him into sending Mycroft to investigate.

Mycroft and his Trinidadian friend, acting as Mycroft′s manservant, catch the first boat for Trinidad and the mysteries begin. Mycroft′s fiancee is not on board the only boat heading to Port of Spain. As the mystery becomes more complex, so also does the world Mycroft has entered. The ″black″ Trinidad Mycroft anticipated becomes, first ″yellow″ with the addition of a growing Chinese community and then ″brown″ with the burgeoning East Indian population. Add European ″financiers″ and Southern American ″investors″ and the pot becomes more and more confusing. This Mycroft is fully as astute as will be his later younger brother, but he is far less accustomed to giving explanations of his inferences. His companion has to rein Mycroft in frequently in order to demand explanations of things Mycroft feels are obvious.

The world in which this tale occurs is odd to 21st Century readers. China is recovering from the Opium Wars and trying to gain her footing after being raped by European business interests. Japan is undergoing the fall of the Samurai Bakafu warlords before the Meiji Restoration and the United States is recuperating from the American Civil war. This is the time of the rise of the Ku Klux Klan and the Carpetbaggers with ten years yet to go before the Gunfight at the OK Corral. In Europe, it is ″business as usual″ in the post-Napoleonic world. The Nobility continue to oppress and rob the peasants and France is the major Continental Power. England sees the rise of Prussia as an antidote to French arrogance and Russia slumbers in the face of growing protests by everyone. Italy and Germany are dreams of the next Century while Turkey dominates the Balkans.

This is the stage setting for a mystery that deepens and deepens as we watch while characters shift and fade and transform. It becomes a question of who is conning whom and all the while, Mycroft suffers and observes. In the end, we see a more familiar Mycroft and ″justice″ triumphs, but the cost is high and the future remains in doubt. This is a well-written and intriguing mystery with very few ″Americanisms″ and better grammar than I, a confirmed nitpicker, can write. It was a very pleasant surprise, a real sleeper.

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Sherlock Holmes in Japan

Type of material: Trade Paperback

Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press

Year: 2015

Author: Vasudev Murthy

This story tells of part of the time called ″The Great Hiatus″ by Sherlockians. Nominally, it conforms to the events as told by Dr. Watson in ″The Final Problem″ and ″The Empty House.″ I say ″nominally″ because most Sherlockians are aware that the accounts given there by the good Doctor are, at best, sketchy, and, at worst, downright fabrications. In fact, most students of the Canon agree that the Doctor strayed fairly far from the truth in these tales.

In this story, Sherlock is faced with a double threat. He discovers plans involving the Japanese Yakuza (organized gangsters) with certain Chinese Triads (more organized gangsters) and members of the Moriarty organization (still more organized gangsters) to flood Europe with narcotics and thus, to destabilize the economies of the dominant European States. Secondly, these plans, whether successful or not, will, when made public, demean the already shaky view the world powers have of the ability of Japan to enter into serious relations with the dominant trading nations.

The details of Sherlock′s travels to Japan and acceptance of an obligation to help deal with these problems is revealed, piecemeal, throughout the tale. This sequence of events is moderately improbable, but, by no means, impossible. The same is true for the basic premise of the tale and the events related. The author displays a solid knowledge of late Nineteenth Century Political History and a more than nodding acquaintance with many interesting characters of the times.

The tale is well-crafted and the characters are fascinating so it reads well and seems plausible. It is a fun read and it is very hard to point at any portions as stretching the reader’s historical tolerance or knowledge of the times. I enjoyed it and, with a few reservations, I heartily recommend it to readers. It leaves several important issues unresolved, but I understand that another tale or two are coming along to round-out the complete story of ″The Great Hiatus.″

Potential readers must be forewarned, however, that the writer has some tendencies that may cause his writing to be hazardous to their health. First, Mr. Murthy has a most reprehensible, low, sense of humor that crops up in the oddest places. Be careful, as it is apt to bite the reader in an unprotected spot without warning. Second, the author spouts split infinitives with enormous abandon. Finally, the author uses modern meanings of words that were assigned different meanings in Victorian times or even uses words not available in those times.

I am fortunate in that my own writings include a volume of hundreds of narrative Sherlockian puns, so I am already immunized against low and vulgar humor. Further, my habit of writing book reviews has served to give me a certain, jaded outlook towards improper English usage and I was able to control my actions in this case. I managed simply to un-split each infinitive as I encountered it, without condemning the writer for his perfidy. Finally, at my age, I have experienced the changing use of Language, while, for younger persons, word usage in the 1930s and ′40s is little different than those used fifty years earlier and such anachronisms are, truly, less serious.

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