Extracts from a Review, by Matt Laffey from ‘ALWAYS 1895’, of:
The Outstanding Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes (2011). Written and illustrated by Gerard Kelly [MX Publishing].
Contained in Kelly’s collection of thirteen Sherlock Holmes pastiches are stories of outstanding quality, each crafted to the perfect length and level of action. It is quite clear that the mind in which these tales were conceived has spent a significant amount of time communing (in the non-spiritualist sense of course) with that of ACD and/or Watson. Kelly’s attention to detail and pacing, his allegiance to the Watsonian brevity and discretion and, perhaps most importantly, his refusal to take the easy way out (Aha! Moriarty is back!) makes for a delightful collection of original yet familiar stories. One is tempted to race through the entire set of tales but the prudent reader will resist this urge and instead savour one or two stories a day (or evening)…
On a final note, Mycroft Holmes makes more than a few welcome appearances in these stories – perhaps the man that at times ‘was’ the British government had a hand in gently suppressing cases [in which] he was involved? Kelly has a knack for writing Mycroft and his judicious inclusions are great fun to read.
If on a rainy Sunday, like many Sherlockians, you find yourself hankering for novel adventures of Team Holmes & Watson, consider picking up The Outstanding Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes.
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.
Immerse yourself into London Victoriana, with cobbled streets and dense fogs, to a time when computers and D.N.A. profiling would be no match for one man’s incredible talent for detective work, Sherlock Holmes! Gerry uses wonderful imagination in creating new conundrums for our man to get his teeth into. A great bedtime read!