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Posted April 6, 2014
This is a collection of six novellas which mostly follow up on the author’s first collection, The Untold Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. There are several villains spread across the six stories and, frankly, the collection of ‘bad guys’ makes the late Professor Moriarty look like a progressive and imaginative businessman.
The first story, “A Study in Hysteria,” presents a peculiar suicide attempt by a patient under treatment by Dr. Sigmund Freud, an old acquaintance of Holmes. It quickly becomes apparent that much more than a patient’s delusions are occurring and Holmes, Watson and Freud are soon chasing a terrifying murderer. In “A Study in Yellow” well-to-do young women are disappearing and the return of “Saucy Jack” is feared. After three of the women are found murdered and dismembered, “Ripper Mania” returns in full force. In the third case, “A Study in Stone,” reminders of earlier cases and villains are highlighted through a series of murders in Wales. In addition, events in this case point to some single source for all the evil in the first three cases.
The fourth tale, “A Study in Clockwork,” resolves the source of villainy that permeates this series of cases as well as referring back to events in the earlier collection. Madness certainly plays a part, but this madness seems to arise from the series of choices made by the villain, not from genetic or societal pressures. It is hard to imagine a self-made villain, but this one is about as close to such as I would ever like to encounter. Frankly, madness is more forgivable and easier to understand.
The final two tales seem to share no connection with the others in this collection. “Sherlock Holmes and the Belgravia Mourner” presents a rationalist who is half-convinced that his wife is being haunted by a demon. Holmes is his last resort for a rational explanation for events that reek of the supernatural. The final tale, “Sherlock Holmes and the Horror of Frankenstein,” connects recent grave robberies in London to the voyage of the Polestar and an old folk tale from Central Europe. Holmes and Watson face a horror from the past resurrected by a madman from the present.
The stories are entertaining and well-written, but they are dark. There are few happy endings and most situations are grim. No frolicking children appear and no joyful reunions are recounted. This world is not a happy place, although, through the efforts of Holmes and Watson, a lot of evil manages to be disposed of.
Reviewed by Philip K. Jones, April, 2014.