Book Review: New Sherlock Holmes Mysteries by MX Publishing
MX Publishing specializes in Sherlock Holmes-themed fiction and scholarship, and here are some of their recent releases.
A Baskerville Curse– Another Sherlock Holmes Alphabet, by P. James Macaluso, Jr.
This little book is a delightful adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles, told with only twenty-six words, and slightly fewer images. Macaluso has taken Lego figures and replicated approximately two dozen scenes from the classic novel, and the photographs illustrate each page. Each scene is summed up in either one, or occasionally two words. For example, a Lego version of the titular character appears under the words “Gigantic Hound.” Despite the extreme brevity, Macaluso manages to summarize the entire novel with words and pictures, stretching only once, with the letter “X.” It’s a really fun work, and one which ought to be used in schools and used as a template for projects for students. This would be a great inspiration for children to summarize and illustrate books in similar ways. A Baskerville Curse is a wonderful tribute to a classic that manages to be clever, imaginative, and gently impressive.
Dead Ringers– Sherlock Holmes Stories, by Robert Perret
This is a compilation of short adventures that appeared previous in numerous Holmes anthologies by multiple publishers. Some of the early stories have terrific premises, such as a mysterious ancient tablet that can mystically answer questions. Many of the later narratives are a bit more experimental in tone, such as the retelling of a critical scene from A Study in Scarlet, told from the perspective of the killer. This is an intriguing collection which attempts to provide a fresh understanding of the Holmes universe through new approaches.
Further Little-Known Cases of Sherlock Holmes, by Arthur Hall
This volume collects seven stories that previously appeared in entries of The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories. The adventures include a woman who seeks Holmes’ help in finding her husband and son, both professional art thieves who vanished months ago; a distraught father whose son may have been the victim of a serial killer who drives his victims to suicide, and a fraudulent medium whose séance is connected to a series of slayings. These are entertaining tales that compliment the original canon rather than try to subvert the classic dynamic or take the characters in new directions, though fans of The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories series should be warned that these tales appeared in volumes that they may already own.
Mrs Hudson Takes the Stage, by Barry Brown
In the sixth book in Brown’s series, Mrs. Hudson is the primary driving force and brains behinds the investigative team at Baker Street. Notably, she deliberately cloaks her sleuthing in anonymity. Holmes is not presented as a fool or a puppet, as he is in the movie Without a Clue, but Mrs. Hudson does the most impressive undercover work and uncovers some of the most vital clues. In this narrative, William Gillette’s play Sherlock Holmes is coming to London, and the real Holmes sullenly attends the production in disguise, hoping to avoid recognition at a play he’s sure he’ll loathe. When the theater’s costumer is murdered, Hudson, Holmes, and Watson investigate. In addition to Gillette, a young Charlie Chaplin and other real-life historical figures appear, and even Arthur Conan Doyle makes a cameo. In addition, there’s a subplot about anarchists and the McKinley assassination. It’s an intriguing narrative, though I would have like to see more development in Mrs. Hudson’s character and motivations.
The Redacted Sherlock Holmes, Volume 6, by Orlando Pearson
This anthology features five short stories about cases that could not be published for various reasons, either because they featured material so sensitive that it could negatively affect the British government and its interests, or because it could unjustly harm the reputations of innocent people. The stories include WWI spycraft, the return of the King of Bohemia along with new scandals, and jettison the Baring-Gould timeline for Watson’s lifespan by having the legendary duo horrified at the atrocities at Nazi concentration camps. The more readers know about the original stories, history, and general knowledge, the more in-jokes one will understand. This is particularly apparent in “The Sorceress and the Sea-Lord,” the humor of which requires a cursory knowledge of the works of Gilbert and Sullivan. Pearson also chooses to adopt the theory that Mycroft proved to be a villain, thereby leading to a rift between the brothers, which may irk fans of the character. These stories are clearly the work of a devoted fan with a lot of knowledge of the source material, and take Holmes and Watson outside of their most famous settings and into other realms of history and literature.
Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Beer Barons, by Chris James
Reading this book will make most readers crave a drink, because the narrative includes so many descriptions of quality beer and other alcoholic beverages. When a beer barrel delivered to 221B has an unexpected surprise inside, Holmes and Watson start investigating the case, along with the unwanted help of Miss Gertie Cresswell, a detective herself who admires Holmes. There are some brief glimpses at Cresswell’s backstory, but a lot more needs to be provided to explain her character and decisions. As it is, it’s unclear why she made some of the life choices she has. The central mystery, involving a scandal with poisoned ale and militant suffragettes, has a lot of inspired moments, though the climax ends a little bit too abruptly. Overall, though, it’s a fun read.
Sherlock Holmes and the Cornwall Affair, by Johanna Reike
This novel takes Holmes and Watson to the English seaside coast. The pair investigate a community filled with colorful characters as they look into a series of crimes, and the narrative is peppered with historical details that provide color and interest. The setting is well-crafted and atmospheric, though I felt like the characters needed to be much more memorable and distinctive in order to leave a deeper impression on the reader.
Sherlock Holmes and the Perplexed Politician, by Margaret Walsh
In this novel, Holmes and Watson are called to a remote village after a politician’s sister’s fiancé is crushed to death in historically notable area. The title is not as apt as it might be, as the titular politician only plays a very minor role in the narrative. As the investigation continues and more people die, Holmes must figure out the relevance of a society of ancient Roman aficionados, buried scandals, and white feathers found at the crime scenes. It’s an interesting premise, but the killer’s motives needed a bit more foreshadowing, and most of the action takes place in the last third of the book. I also wanted more focus on the children who fall victim to the actions of adults in this book– the young characters are given scarcely any page time at all, and their emotional devastation is to me the most poignant aspect of the story.
If I have one serious issue with these books, it is that the proofreading needs to be improved, because virtually every book is peppered with spelling errors, missing words, and errant punctuation. As for their content, these books reflect the triumph of fandom. Notably, all of these stories are clearly distinguishable from the original Canon, and all of them seem to mirror their authors’ personal styles and interests. In a way, these stories are all a testament to the lasting legacy of Sherlock Holmes, who has become such a towering figure in our shared culture and popular mythos that his saga must continue to expand and reflect the concerns and imaginations of new generations of fans.
A Baskerville Curse– Another Sherlock Holmes Alphabet
By P. James Macaluso, Jr.
Dead Ringers– Sherlock Holmes Stories
By Robert Perret
Further Little-Known Cases of Sherlock Holmes
By Arthur Hall
Mrs Hudson Takes the Stage
By Barry Brown
The Redacted Sherlock Holmes, Volume 6
By Orlando Pearson
Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Beer Barons
By Chris James
Sherlock Holmes and the Cornwall Affair
By Johanna Reike
Sherlock Holmes and the Perplexed Politician
By Margaret Walsh