I’ll spare people the details of Holmes and Watson as crime-solvers – I’m assuming anyone likely to pick this one up is probably familiar with the Victorian duo. This is generally very faithful to the Arthur Conan Doyle originals and the best stories in this set of thirteen sound authentic enough to take their place alongside some of the canon.
The strong points of the collection are numerous, chiefly being an excellent attempt at capturing Conan Doyle’s style of writing which makes Kelly’s Watson convincingly close to the original for the most part. There’s also some ingenious plotting in some of the stories – my personal favourites being The Mayfair Strangler, The Mysterious Death of the Kennington Verger, The Mystery of the Locked Study, and The Adventure of the Black Arrow. Holmes is also given plenty of opportunities to dazzle both his companion and the reader with observations about people he’s only just met, which were always some of my favourite moments in the original stories and raise just as much of a smile here.
There’s a few flaws which stop me from praising this set without reservation – I found the ending to the first story to be rather too brutal for my liking, while The Riddle of the Carstairs Legacy, The Mysterious Disappearance of the Good Ship Alicia, and The Prodigal Quest all seemed rather trivial matters to tax the great detective for long. (Admittedly, Alicia is extremely short as a story.) There’s also a rather odd anachronism, as Holmes describes someone as wearing charity shop clothing – surely not a concept which would have beeen around in Victorian times? With this exception, to be fair, Kelly does a good job of capturing the atmosphere of London of this era.
In closing, the majority of the stories here range from good to excellent, and the quartet mentioned in my second paragraph especially stand out as some of my favourite non-Conan Doyle Holmes shorts. There’s enough entertainment value in the nine stories I really liked to make this a recommendation overall.