It was a dark and stormy night. The wind howled through the trees, and fierce lightning flashed in the sky. Out of the darkness came a solitary cry: “STEVEN MOFFAAAAT.”
Thus began the Case of the Sherlock Withdrawal, starring all of us. We’ve memorized all six 90-minute episodes. We’ve exhausted the #Cumberbatch tag on Tumblr. We’ve ingested some questionable fan fiction, and developed the sickly pallor of someone who’s misplaced the keys to our mind palace.
The wait for the mythical, unicorn-status season 3 of the BBC’s Sherlock has gotten to us all. You may have tried to while away the hours by brushing up on your canon, but alas, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle isn’t around to provide any fresh adventures of the world’s only consulting detective—and if he were here, he’d hate us for asking and refuse to write more anyway. But never fear: Sherlock Holmes pastiche has long been its own cottage industry, with authors springing up right and left to throw new obstacles at the detective and the venerable Doctor Watson: The Giant Rat of Sumatra! A gajillion versions of Jack the Ripper! The great expectations of the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate! With that in mind, here’s some light reading to get you through the lonely nights until Moffat and Co. resurrect the fallen detective.
The Hound of the Baskervilles: A Sherlock Holmes Graphic Novel, adapted by Ian Edginton and illustrated by I.N.J. Culbard
Edginton and Culbard have teamed up to adapt three of Holmes’ adventures—The Sign of the Four, A Study in Scarlet and Baskervilles—but why not start with the eerie tale upon the moor that brought our dear detective back from the dead? If you’ve yet to dip your toe into the world of graphic novels, this exquisitely illustrated creeper is the perfect gateway.
Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the D’Urberville, by Kim Newman
Fall through the looking glass with this series of tales told from the sinister perspective of Col. Sebastian Moran, the villainous Watson to Professor James Moriarty’s evil-genius Holmes. Newman, the author of the Anno Dracula series, is an old hat at free-wheeling mashups rife with Victorian references, and continues the habit here. The added humor, however, lies in looking at various Holmes stories in reverse, down to the Stamford-induced meet-cute between Moran and Moriarty.
Many have tried and failed to capture Doyle’s authorial voice, but Faye may come the closest. In this well-researched literary debut, Faye re-creates the world of Holmes and adds a character frequently seen in Sherlock spinoffs: Jack the Ripper. Yes, the Ripper is terrorizing Whitechapel, and the good Doctor Watson is back to tell us the true story of how Sherlock Holmes ended him. It’s an Anglophile’s dream.
The Sherlockian, by Graham Moore
Two of the most interesting aspects of Holmesian lore aren’t found in the books themselves: the author, and his fans. The Sherlockian, in the same book-obsessed vein as this summer’s The Bookman’s Tale, combines both through alternating mysteries. One storyline follows Doyle himself as he kills off his famous character, only to bring him back. His narrative counterpart is Harold White, a modern member of Holmes’ fan club, the Baker Street Irregulars. While Doyle navigates a plot he himself might have written, Harold is on the trail of the author’s lost diary and a murderer. It’s a plot fit for 221B.
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, by Laurie R. King
Holmes’ illustrious career has been well-documented; his retirement remains somewhat murkier. In this imaginative story of Holmes’ beekeeping years, the great detective is confronted with something he likely never expected: a teenage girl to match wits with! In Mary Russell, we have the most intriguing woman in the Baker Street universe since Irene Adler. Vatican cameos!
The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Holmes, by Loren D. Estleman
Do you like your Jane Austen served with zombies? Then the Further Adventures series might be for you. If you’ve ever wondered, say, whether Jack Dawson would have survived the Titanic sinking if he’d had the inestimable Holmes at his side, then it is most certainly for you. In this installment of the series, pitting Holmes against foes like Dracula and the War of the Worlds, the detective is confronted with a mystery in duality, and for once, we the audience understand more going in than he does. Of course, we know what lurks beneath the calm exterior of Henry Jekyll, but that doesn’t rob us of the pleasure of seeing Holmes confront Hyde in a battle of mind versus mania.
What books have given you your deerstalker fix? The game is afoot, after all!