The Washington Post
A Study in Sherlock: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canonby Laurie R. King
What would happen if you asked eighteen top writers who don’t normally write about Sherlock Holmes, to write about Sherlock Holmes? What if you wrote to them, saying:
In 19th century England, a new kind of hero—a consulting detective—blossomed in the mind of an underemployed doctor and ignited the world’s imagination. In the
What would happen if you asked eighteen top writers who don’t normally write about Sherlock Holmes, to write about Sherlock Holmes? What if you wrote to them, saying:
In 19th century England, a new kind of hero—a consulting detective—blossomed in the mind of an underemployed doctor and ignited the world’s imagination. In the thirteen decades since A Study in Scarlet first appeared, countless variations on that theme have been played, from Mary Russell to Greg House, from ‘Basil of Baker Street’ to the new BBC Holmes-in-the-Internet-age.
We suspect that you have in the back of your mind a story that plays a variation on the Holmes theme....
And what if these great writers read that proposal and decided that yes, they did have that kind of tale in the back of their minds? The result is A Study in Sherlock, Stories Inspired by the Sherlock Holmes Canon, with stories by Alan Bradley, Tony Broadbent, Jan Burke, Lionel Chetwynd, Lee Child, Colin Cotterill, Neil Gaiman, Laura Lippman, Gayle Lynds and John Sheldon, Phillip and Jerry Margolin, Margaret Maron, Thomas Perry, S. J. Rozan, Dana Stabenow, Charles Todd, and Jacqueline Winspear.
The Washington Post
"King (The Beekeeper’s Apprentice and 10 other Mary Russell novels) and Klinger (The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes) have not stuck to the usual suspects for this stellar anthology of 16 new short stories that pay homage to the great detective." —Publishers Weekly, starred review
- Titan Publishing Company
- Publication date:
Read an Excerpt
YOU'D BETTER GO IN DISGUISE
How long had he been watching me? I wondered.
I had been standing for perhaps a quarter of an hour, gazing idly at the little boys in sailor suits and their sisters in pinafores, all of whom, watched over by a small army of nannies and a handful of mothers, waded like diminutive giants among their toy sailing boats in the Serpentine.
A sudden breeze had sprung up, scattering the fallen leaves and bringing the slightest of chills to an otherwise idyllic autumn afternoon. I shivered and turned up my collar, the hairs at the back of my neck bristling against my jacket.
To be precise, the pressure of my collar put a stop to the bristling which, since I had not noticed it until that moment, made the feeling all that much more peculiar.
Perhaps it was because I had, the previous week, attended Professor Malabar's demonstration at the Palladium. His uncanny experiments in the world of the unseen were sufficient to give pause to even the greatest of sceptics, among whom, most assuredly, I do not count myself.
I must admit at the outset to an unshakeable belief in the theory that there is a force which emanates from the eye of a watcher that is detectable by some as-yet-undiscovered sensor at the back of the neck of the person being watched; a phenomenon which, I am furthermore convinced, is caused by a specialized realm of magnetism whose principles are not yet fully understood by science.
In short, I knew that I was being stared at, a fact which, in itself, is not necessarily without pleasure. What, for example, if one of those nattily uniformed nannies had her eye upon me? Even though I was presently more conservative than I once had been, I was keenly aware that I still cut rather a remarkable figure. At least, when I chose to.
I turned slowly, taking care to pitch my gaze above the heads of the governesses, but by the time I had turned through a casual half circle they were every one engaged again in gossip or absorbed in the pages of a book.
I studied them intently, paying close attention to all but one, who sat primly on a park bench, her head bowed, as if in silent prayer.
It was then that I spotted him: just beyond the swans; just beyond a tin toy Unterseeboot.
He was sitting quietly on a bench, his hands folded in his lap, his polished boots forming a carpenter's square upon the gravelled path. A solicitor's clerk, I should have thought, although his ascetic gauntness did not without contradiction suggest one who laboured in the law.
Even though he wanted not to be seen (a fact which, as a master of that art myself, I recognized at once), his eye, paradoxically all- seeing, was the eye of an eagle: hard, cold, and objective.
To my horror, I realized that my legs were propelling me inexorably towards the stranger and his bench, as if he had summoned me by means of some occult wireless device.
I found myself standing before him.
"A fine day," he said, in a voice which might have been at home on the Shakespearean stage, and yet which, for all its resonance, struck a false note.
"One smells the city after the rain," he went on, "for better or for worse."
I smiled politely, my instincts pleading with me not to strike up a conversation with an over-chatty stranger.
He shifted himself sideways on the bench, touching the wooden seat with long fingers.
"Please sit," he said, and I obeyed.
I pulled out a cigarette case, selected one, and patted my pockets for a match. As if by magic a Lucifer appeared at his fingertips, and, solicitously, he lit me up.
I offered him the open case, but he brushed it away with
a swift gesture of polite refusal. My exhaled smoke hung heavily in the autumn air.
"I perceive you are attempting to give up the noxious weed."
I must have looked taken aback.
"The smell of bergamot," he said, "is a dead giveaway. Oswego tea, they call it in America, where they drink an infusion of the stuff for no other reason than pleasure. Have you been to America?"
"Not in some time," I said.
"Ah." He nodded. "Just as I thought."
"You seem to be a very observant person," I ventured.
"I try to keep my hand in," he said, "although it doesn't come as easily as it did in my salad days. Odd, isn't it, how, as they gain experience, the senses become blunted. One must keep them up by making a game of it, like the boy, Kim, in Kipling. Do you enjoy Kipling?"
I was tempted to reply with that exhausted old wheeze, I don't know, I've never kippled, but something told me (that strange sense again) to keep it to myself.
"I haven't read him for years," I said.
"A singular person, Kipling. Remarkable, is it not, that a man with such weakened eyes should write so much about the sense of sight?"
"Compensation, perhaps," I suggested.
"Ha! An alienist! You are a follower of Freud."
Damn the fellow. Next thing I knew he'd be asking me to pick a card and telling me my auntie's telephone number.
I gave him half a nod.
"Just so," he said. "I perceived by your boots that you have been in Vienna. The soles of Herr Stockinger are unmistakable."
I turned and, for the first time, sized the man up. He wore a tight- fitting jacket and ragged trousers, an open collar with a red scarf at his throat, and on his head, a tram conductor's cap with the number 309 engraved on a brass badge.
Not a workman-no, too old for that, but someone who wanted to be taken for a workman. An insurance investigator, perhaps, and with that thought my heart ran suddenly cold.
"You must come here often," I said, giving him back a taste of his own, "to guess out the occupations of strangers. Bit of a game with you, is it?"
His brow wrinkled.
"Game? There are no games on the battlefield of life,
"De Voors," I said, blurting out the first thing that came to mind.
"Ah! De Voors. Dutch, then."
It was not so much a question as a statement-as if he were ticking off an internal checklist.
"Yes," I said. "Originally."
"Do you speak the language?"
"As I suspected. The labials are not formed in that direction."
"See here, Mister-"
"Montague," he said, seizing my hand and giving it a hearty shake.
Why did I have the feeling he was simultaneously using his forefinger to gauge my pulse?
"._._._Samuel Montague. I am happy to meet you. Undeniably happy."
He gave his cap a subservient tip, ending with a two-fingered salute at its brim.
"You have not answered my question, Mr. Montague," I said. "Do you come here often to observe?"
"The parks of our great city are conducive to reflection," he said. "I find that a great expanse of grass gives free rein to the mind."
"Free rein is not always desirable," I said, "in a mind accustomed to running in its own tram tracks."
"Excellent!" he exclaimed. "A touch of metaphor. It is a characteristic not always to be found among the Dutch!"
"See here, Mr. Montague," I said. "I don't know that I like-"
But already his hand was on my arm.
"No offence, my dear fellow. No offence at all. In any case, I see that your British hedgehog outbristles your Dutch beech marten."
"What the devil do you mean by that?" I said, leaping to my feet.
"Nothing at all. It was an attempted joke on my part that failed to jell-an impertinence. Please forgive me."
He seized my sleeve and pulled me down beside him on the bench.
"That fellow over there," he said in a low voice. "Don't look at him directly-the one loitering beneath the lime. What do you make of him?"
"He is a doctor," I replied quickly, eager to shift the focus from myself. The unexpected widening of my acquaintance's eyes told me that I had scored a lucky hit.
"How can you tell?" he demanded.
"He has the slightly hunched shoulders of a man who has sat by many a sickbed."
"And the tips of his fingers are stained with silver nitrate from the treating of warts."
"How can you be sure he's not a cigarette smoker and an apothecary?"
"He's not smoking and apothecaries do not generally carry black bags."
"Wonderful," exclaimed Montague. "Add to that the pin of Bart's Hospital in his lapel, the seal of the Royal College of Surgeons on his keychain, and the unmistakable outline of a stethoscope in his jacket pocket."
I found myself grinning at him like a Cheshire cat.
I had fallen into the game.
"And the park keeper?"
I sized up the old man, who was picking up scraps of paper and lobbing them with precision into a wheeled refuse bin.
"An old soldier. He limps. He was wounded. His large body is mounted upon spindly legs. Probably spent a great deal of time in a military hospital recovering from his wounds. Not an officer-he doesn't have the bearing. Infantry, I should say. Served in France."
Montague bit the corner of his lip and gave me half a wink.
"Splendid!" he said.
"Now then," he went on, pointing with his chin towards the woman sitting alone on the park bench closest to the water. "Over there is a person who seems quite ordinary-quite plain. No superabundance of clues to be had. I'll bet you a shilling you can't supply me with three solid facts about her."
As he spoke, the woman leaped to her feet and called out to a child who was knee-deep in the water.
"Heinrich! Come here, my sweet little toad!"
"She is German," I said.
"Quite so," said Montague. "And can you venture more? Pray, do go on."
"She's German," I said with finality, hoping to bring to an end this unwanted exercise. "And that's an end of it."
"Is it?" he asked, looking at me closely.
I did not condescend to reply.
"Let me see, then, if I may succeed in taking up where you have left off. As you have observed, she is German. We shall begin with that. Next, we shall note that she is married: the rings on the usual finger of the left hand make that quite clear, an opinion which is bolstered by the fact that young Heinrich, who has lost his stick in the water, is the very image of his pretty little mother.
"She is widowed-and very recently, if I am any judge. Her black dress is fresh from Peter Robinson's Mourning Warehouse. Indeed, the tag is still affixed at the nape of her neck, which tells us, among many other things, that regardless of her apparent poise, she is greatly distracted and no longer has a maid.
"In spite of having overlooked the tag, she possesses excellent eyesight, evinced by the fact that she is able to read the excruciatingly small type of the book which is resting in her lap, and without more than an upward glance, keep an eye upon her child who is now nearly halfway across the basin. What do you suppose would bring such a woman to a public park?"
"Really, Montague," I said. "You have no right-"
"Tut, my dear fellow. I am merely exercising the possibilities. In truth, I have barely scratched the surface. Where were we? Oh, yes. German. Indubitably German. But from which region in particular?
"Let us begin with young master Heinrich. What was it she called him? 'My sweet toad,' wasn't it? An expression which, although not restricted to Baden, is nevertheless much more commonly to be heard there than in other parts of the country.
"Very well, then let us for the moment hypothesize that the young widow is from Baden. How may we test that rather broad assumption?
"Let us dwell for a moment upon her teeth. Surely you noticed, as I did when she called out to her child, that she showed a very fine, strong set of teeth, remarkable however, not for their completeness or their pleasing alignment, but rather for the fact that they are pinkish: a rare, but nonetheless documented phenomenon which arises only in those who have been accustomed to drink, from birth, the iron- rich waters of certain spas.
"As I know from my own remarkable cure in those waters, one of those with the highest content of ferric matter is at Mergentheim. Yes, I should say we could not go far astray if we pegged the lady as a Swabian from Baden. That and her accent, of course."
I couldn't restrain a laugh.
"Altogether far-fetched," I told him. "Your hypotheses, as you call them, leave no elbow room for reality. What if, for instance, she is mourning her father? Or her mother? Or her great-grandmother, for that matter?"
"Then her name would not have been splashed all over the front pages of this morning's newspapers as the wife of a murder victim."
"Tragic, but nevertheless quite true, I assure you."
He reached with two fingers into his vest pocket and extracted a double-columned clipping which he proceeded to unfold and flatten on his knee.
"Shocking death in Buncombe Place," he read aloud. "Police were called at an early hour this morning to Number Six, Buncombe Place by Mrs. Frieda Barnett, who had, moments before, found her husband, Welland Barnett, aged fifty, of the same address, dead in the drawing room in a pool of his own blood. The victim had received a number of stab wounds to the back of his neck, any one of which might have proved fatal, according to the police surgeon at the scene_._._.
"They oughtn't really to put that in," he interrupted himself. "Not until autopsy and inquest are complete. I'm quite sure that heads will roll-if it is not indelicate to express such an opinion."
I couldn't find words to respond, and Montague went on with his reading.
"The deceased was described as a man of regular habits, and had no known enemies, according to Mrs. Barnett, who is left to mourn with her only child, Heinrich, aged four years_._._.
"They always go for the heart, don't they, these scandal sheets-like the bullets at a military execution. Where were we-oh, yes, her child_._._."
Montague paused to look out at the little boy who had now fished his stick from the water and was giving the surface a good wet thrashing by way of repayment.
"._._._her only child, Heinrich, aged four years," he went on. "Inspector Gregson of Scotland Yard has given it as his opinion that robbery may have been a motive, inasmuch as a small silver key of peculiar design was missing from its customary place upon the victim's waistcoat chain, according to Ellen Dimity, the Barnetts' cook. Inspector Gregson declined to give further information until investigations are complete, although he has requested that any person or persons who might have further information bearing upon this crime, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Would you like to read it?"
He offered the paper, but I shook my head.
"No thank you. I find such things upsetting."
"Indeed," he said, "as do I. Which is precisely why I made my way to Number Six, Buncombe Place, and begged my old friend Gregson to let me have a look round."
"Inspector Gregson? You know him?"
Meet the Author
Laurie R. King is the award-winning (Edgar, Creasey, Agatha, Nero,Lambda, Macavity) and bestselling author of a score of crime novels, half of them featuring “the world’s greatest detective—and her husband, Sherlock Holmes.” Her books and related academic material can be found at www.LaurieRKing.com.
Leslie S. Klinger is the Edgar-winning editor of The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, a collection of the entire Sherlock Holmes Canon. He also edited the highly regarded The New Annotated Dracula and numerous anthologies of Victorian detective and vampire fictionand criticism.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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The sixteen contributions are over all quite good with no clinkers though few are outstanding enough to stand out in the vast Sherlock universe. Alan Bradley opens the overall engaging homage to the great detective of 221B Baker Street with a throwback tale that comes across as if Mr. Doyle wrote You'd Better Go in Disguise" if you want to catch a killer in a park. Tony Broadbent as a modern day taxi driver give a fare "As to an "Exact Knowledge of London" tour in a strange but enticing entry. In 1901 President McKinley meets with Holmes in Buffalo with a strange request (see "Starling Events in the Electrified City" by Thomas Perry). An Anglophile FBI agent investigate the murder of an American in London, only to learn the path from Baker Street to Leavenworth is through Pennsylvania in "The Bone Headed league" by Lee Child. The Margolin brothers have Baker Street trivia guru New Yorker Ronald Adair on the moors solving "The Adventure of the Purloined Paget." Colin Cotterill provides a refreshing amusing take with his animated "The Mysterious Case of the Unwritten Short Story." Finally Jacqueline Winspear ends the collection with an ailing lad inspired after reading Holmes to solve the case with "A Spit of Detection." Harriet Klausner
Love these collections of Sherlock stories from all the different authors. A number of them have caused me to looking into the author that wrote them to see other books they might have done. Stories range from traditional Sherlock to modern day Sherlock to people who love the Sherlock stories and are detectives like him. Highly recommend these if you love Sherlock and the Mary Russell/Sherlock stories.
I was somewhat skeptical when this book was recommended in a newspaper, but curious enough to purchase it. I like the "real" Sherlock Holmes tales a lot, and generally don't like it when folks mess with the "real thing." However, this collection is quite interesting in its approach, and it is amazing to see how the various authors took such different "spins" on the general topic. I'm about half-way through the book now and am enjoying it a lot.
This collection is the first by this pair of editors and it looks to be a winner. The stories are not necessarily about Holmes, but rather are all inspired by the sixty tales of the Canon. This has resulted in a complex mixture of tales. Properly speaking, none of these tales are pastiches, although some are about Holmes or Watson or other Canonical characters. They are not imitations of the Canonical tales written in the style of Doyle but instead are stories inspired by the sixty tales written by Doyle about Holmes. ¿You¿d Better Go in Disguise¿ is an intriguing short story by Alan Bradley that presents several odd twists and confused identities. ¿As to ¿an exact knowledge of London¿¿ is a novella by Tony Broadbent. It is set in modern times and it tells of a wounded Army Doctor returning from service in Afghanistan who takes a long cab ride around London with a very knowledgeable cabbie. ¿The Men with the Twisted Lips¿ is a short story by S. J. Rozan. It presents an alternative and very interesting but not contradictory view of events in ¿The Man with the Twisted Lip.¿ ¿The Adventure of the Purloined Paget¿ is a novella by Phillip and Jerry Margolin that relates the offer for auction of a Paget drawing created for a lost, 61st Holmes story written by Arthur Conan Doyle. The owner¿s murder sparks serious Sherlockian analysis and deduction. ¿The Bone-headed League¿ is a short story by Lee Child set in modern day London with an ardent student of The Canon being caught up in an investigation that echoes with the tone of ¿The Red-Headed League.¿ ¿The Startling Events in the Electrified City¿ is a novella that relates Holmes¿ and Watson¿s involvement in the assassination of President McKinley at the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. It provides an excellent explanation of the political effects of this event. ¿The Mysterious Case of the Unwritten Short Story¿ is an illustrated ¿commentary¿ of uncertain length and content by Colin Cotterill. It does mention Sherlock Holmes and Baker Street several times (at least twice!) and is almost surely related to some sort of Sherlockian narrative, I think! ¿The Case of Death and Honey¿ is a short novella by Neil Gaiman that once more displays his true mastery of Sherlockian fiction. It mingles the story of old Gao¿s mean and lazy bees and the old white ghost man with that of Professor Presbury and his experiments. ¿A Triumph of Logic¿ is a short novella by Gayle Lynds and John Sheldon. It relates an unofficial investigation by a Maine lawyer and judge into the suicide of a court recorder. ¿The Last of Sheila-Locke Holmes¿ is a short story by Laura Lippman that relates a Holmesian episode in growing up for an eleven-year-old girl. ¿The Adventure of the Concert Pianist¿ is a short story by Margaret Maron that describes a joint investigation by Dr. Watson and Mrs. Hudson just prior to ¿The Adventure of the Empty House.¿ It also contains several interesting comments of one sort or another by Mrs. Hudson.. ¿The Shadow Not Cast¿ is a novella by Lionel Chetwynd about a modern-day Sherlock Holmes. It is brimming over with interesting characters, ideas and situations, topped off by a true Holmes sound-alike. ¿The Eyak Interpreter¿ is a short story by Dana Stabenow that features her native Alaskan private detective, Kate Shugak, in a story reminiscent of ¿The Greek Interpreter.¿ ¿The Case That Holmes Lost¿ is a short story by Charles Todd. It tells of an in
An interesting collection of Sherlock Holmes stories by a varied assortment of popular authors. Each is accompanied by a brief bio of the author and their relationship to the Holmes character. Any fan of Holmes will find this an enjoyable read.
There is little I can add to what has already been said above, except to point out that they neglected to mention my favorite story, the Kate Shugak tale by Dana Stabenow! Overall, a fun romp with the great detective in many different guises.
A FEW GOOD STORIES, QUITE THAT DON'T SEEM TO HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH HOLMES.