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Posted March 2, 2011
The Introduction, by George Piliev, explains the spurt in popularity of Sherlock Holmes tales in Russia in the first quarter of the 20th Century. Poor communications, translation problems and difficult legal barriers slowed publication of Doyle's works in Russia to the point that it failed to satisfy the clamoring the 'Reading Public' which even included the Imperial family. The slow translation of Doyle's works, in conjunction with the exploding popularity of Holmes led to maniacal inclusion of Holmes in advertisements, plays, children's tales and all elements of cultural life. The 'Superstar' phenomenon came early to Russia. In place of translations of Doyle's tales, a number of home-grown authors met the spiraling demand for Sherlockian stories, creating a Literary 'bloom' of indigenous Sherlockian tales. Similar 'blooms' have occurred in Danish, German, Chinese and East Indian literature at various times in the last Century. This book contains a selection of seven tales from this Russian Literary 'Bloom' by two different authors. The selection in this volume was made carefully by the editor/translator, with an eye toward showing off the best of the lot and displaying the characteristics most common to the Literature as a whole. The first two stories are by P. Orlovetz (details unknown) and give the commonly used rationalization for the presence of Holmes and Watson in Russia, an extended vacation. These tales are barely readable, especially to anyone familiar with the Canon. The plots are minor and lacking in any real logic and the characterizations are unrecognizable. The only strengths in these tale are in their presentation of conditions in Czarist Russia. The final five tales, credited to P. Nikitin (again, details unknown), are a definite step up in quality. There are marked improvements in plotting and some of the characters are well-drawn and interesting. Further, the events include happenings that were typical of the times and settings. Each is a reasonably entertaining mystery, set in a lively and exotic land with interesting persons and events. The real problem is that none of those persons are Sherlock Holmes or Dr. Watson. Their names are used but nothing much else is familiar. In a couple of the later tales, the hero makes a few sensible inferences from clues and local knowledge, but the instance of Holmes on 'observation' is not present. The detective acts much as one would expect a Pinkerton agent to function; systematic, careful, sensible, but there are no flashes of insight and no deductions worth observing. Reviewed by: Philip K. Jones; March, 2010. Published in "The Illustrious Clients News," [V33, #3, 04/2010].Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.