As you can probably gather, Encounters of Sherlock Holmes is a collection of Sherlock Holmes stories by modern authors, featuring the same characters we all know and love. As is always the case, some stories are better than others but there are a few that could easily pass for a Conan Doyle original.
The spirit of Sherlock Holmes lives on in this collection of fourteen brand-new adventures. Marvel as the master of deduction aids a dying Sir Richard Francis Burton; matches wits with a gentleman thief, A.J. Raffles; crosses paths with H.G. Wells in the most curious circumstances; unravels a macabre mystery on the Necropolis Express; unpicks a murder in a locked railway carriage; explains the origins of his famous Persian slipper and more!
To start simply, my favourite stories in this collection were The Adventure of the Locked Carriage by Stuart Douglas and The Property of a Thief by Mark Wright. The former in particular captured the tone and style of Arthur Conan Doyle to the extent that it was barely distinguishable.
As with many collections of this nature however, the standard is hardly constant. The writing style for the majority is actually at a very good level; there are a few that are slightly clunky, but I was impressed with the quality overall. It was just the subject matter and dialogue that let them down.
I think the main problem with Encounters of Sherlock Holmes is that a lot of the stories try too hard. I understood who this collection was supposed to feature without the authors needing to mention Irene Adler, cocaine, Deerstalker hats (which he never wore in the books anyway) or using the word ‘elementary’ every other page. A lot of the stories do fall prey to this, unfortunately.
The other problem is an irritating use of what can only be referred to as ‘gimmicks.’ Roughly 80% of these stories try to shock you into liking them, either by using a very modern subject matter that would have been appalling in the 19th Century, featuring the paranormal or featuring at least one character from another author’s work. All but… *counts* two fall prey to this. I have to say, it got a little irritating. The original Sherlock Holmes stories didn’t need to use gay pornography or aliens to be interesting, so why should they now? The first sentence of one story is:
There commenced in the spring of 1915 one of the most fascinating cases that my friend, Mr Sherlock Holmes, has had the fortune to investigate since the arrival on our planet of the Martians ten years ago…
No. Thank you, but no. There was another that I particularly didn’t like that featured characters from a few different classic Horror novels, but saying more may spoil it. The authors should have been comfortable enough with their own writing to create a simple mystery without embellishing it with tricks or extra characters.
On the whole, a very mixed bag – a few of these stories were amazing, most were acceptable and one I couldn’t finish. Immediately after finishing I went to pick up my original Sherlock Holmes books and then watched the Robert Downey Jr. films back to back, so it at least has enough of the correct tone to put me in a Sherlock frame of mind!