Mann’s Sherlock Holmes anthologies for Titan Books have done a terrific job of
finding new ways to approach the Great Detective – which is no easy task,
considering he’s probably the most written about fictional character of all
time. First, The Encounters of Sherlock
Holmes and The Further Encounters of
Sherlock Holmes mashed him together with other literary characters and
stories. Now, Mann’s latest anthology sports another novel approach. Why not
turn the focus away from Holmes and Watson and highlight the many colourful
characters elsewhere in Conan Doyle’s writing?
Associates of Sherlock Holmes, that great premise is followed up by a high
calibre of veteran Sherlock Holmes writers – like James Lovegrove, Andrew Lane
and Jonathan Barnes – who have chosen a wide selection of characters to explore.
There are the welcome usual suspects (e.g. Lestrade and Mycroft) as well as
more obscure figures from the canon (Inspector Baynes, anyone?) who are
spotlighted for a change.
Holmes himself features in roles of
varying size. Sometimes he is still the central character, just seen through
someone else’s eyes, while in others he is merely a fleeting presence. Not one
writer drops the ball with the detective, however, and each captures his
Just like any anthology, some stories
are better than others but all are of a very strong standard. Just a few of the
many treats on offer are ‘Nor Hell A Fury’ with its fresh take on Irene Adler,
‘The Case of the Previous Tenant’ which reveals the strange tale of 221B’s last
occupant and ‘The Presbury Papers’; a brilliantly outlandish sequel to what was
already the strangest Holmes story, ‘The Creeping Man.’
There was just one entry that rankled
this reviewer, as it retconned a classic Holmes adventure into having a
supernatural explanation. Stories that pit Holmes against the paranormal are
always fun, but mess with Doyle at your peril.
That said, the best thing about Associates is the mix of styles, tones
and even genres on display. Though it generally skewers closer to Doyle’s style
than the often steampunk-themed previous anthologies from Mann, there is still
gothic horror, science fiction, comedic farces, grisly murders, romance and
more on show here. In short, there is something for every fan, casual reader or
associate of Sherlock Holmes to enjoy.
ASSOCIATES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES / EDITOR:
GEORGE MANN / AUTHOR: VARIOUS / PUBLISHER: TITAN BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW