George 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?
In The 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 distinctive personality.
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.
THE ASSOCIATES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES / EDITOR: GEORGE MANN / AUTHORS: VARIOUS / PUBLISHER: TITAN BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW