Even after nearly 130 years, the well of new Sherlock Holmes stories that need to be told refuses to run dry. This is surely due to the flexibility of the character and the inventive directions that fans-turned-writers find to take him in. Take Alt.Sherlock.Holmes, for example, an anthology collecting three novellas that dare to uproot the Great Detective from his familiar Victorian/Edwardian surroundings and deposit him in different locations and periods of American history.
Jamie Wyman’s ‘The Case of the Tattooed Bride’ casts Holmes as a carnie in 1930s Indiana, one who aids the Pinkerton Detective Agency in solving their most inexplicable crimes. Wyman has a lot of fun reinventing the wheel, and the notion of Sherlock as a circus sideshow attraction is certainly a neat and enticing idea.
‘A Study in Starlets’ by Gini Koch sports a switcheroo you would really expect to be more common than it is; Sherlock Holmes as a woman. The female Holmes is possibly the standout revamp of the detective in the anthology – she’s a vibrant character all on her own, possessing a love for reality television and a James Bond-like Aston Martin. The modern American setting and the gender-swapping could be reminiscent of the TV series Elementary, but Koch thankfully spins it in a different direction.
It’s Glen Mehn’s ‘The Power of the Media’ that offers the most eye-raising alternative view of the world of Sherlock Holmes, however, as it is set in the drug-addled New York of the 1960s. While the idea of Holmes as a user is nothing new, reading about how respectable old Dr Watson turned into Walter White from Breaking Bad is pretty startling.
Though each presents an original, well-told mystery, the most enjoyable aspect of these novellas is noticing all the references to usual Holmes lore and seeing how they have been skewed to fit into a new context. It is also a nice touch to have each story preluded by an account of how these alternate Holmeses and Watsons met. Because no matter how much the detective is changed, he must always have his Boswell.
It is a testament to Conan Doyle’s creations that the core elements of the characters and their stories can endure even after undergoing such radical reinvention. As such, this anthology is definitely worth a read for any Holmes fan that thinks something like Sherlock doesn’t push the character far enough out of his comfort zone.
ALT.SHERLOCK.HOLMES: THREE NEW VISIONS OF THE WORLD’S GREATEST DETECTIVE / AUTHORS: JAMIE WYMAN, GLEN MEHN, GINI KOCK / PUBLISHER: ABADDON / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW