Thursday, 25 April 2013

Sherlock Holmes Pastiches You Have to Read

As a break from the Doctor Who reviews that have been consuming my blog this month like a great big soul-eating sun (sorry, that'll be the last Who reference, this post, I promise), I thought you might all like a bit of Holmes. Following on from my Sherlock Holmes Stories You Have to Read post I wrote last year, here is a sequel of sorts - a list of a few of the best Sherlock Holmes mysteries based on the canon of Arthur Conan Doyle and the wonderful characters he created. Although it is up to the author what bits of the canon he or she wishes to keep or change in their piece, I think many miss the core of the original stories and so become something too different or, alternatively, some are just poor copies of Conan Doyle's stories. However, those below, I think, get a good balance between the new and the old to make proper, good Sherlock Holmes stories. Now, I hope you all have your magnifying glasses ready as we delve into the thick fog of Holmes pastiches...

                                     Young Sherlock Holmes

Written by: Andrew Lang
What's it about: This series of young adult novels follows a teenage Sherlock Holmes as he uncovers impossible mysteries that take him around the world and to the heart of dark conspiracies. Very much inspired by Charlie Higson's Young Bond novels, these books are fun, not-too-demanding adventure stories that aim to shed some light on how Sherlock became the enigmatic, difficult individual we are all familiar with. There's no Dr Watson, Baker Street and very little London, but Sherlock is joined on his globe-trotting cases by his tutor in deduction Amycus Crowe and his daughter, Virginia (who Sherlock has feelings for), his violin teacher Rufus Stone and his roguish vagabond friend, Matty. The series is also great for villains with each one featuring a Bond-like supervillain with a madcap ambitious scheme and an odd physical attribute e.g the second novel's Duke Baltazar keeps leeches on his face due to a blood disorder. You can learn more about the series here.
If you enjoyed this: Author Andrew Lang has also written other Holmes pastiches including a Doctor Who novel, All-Consuming Fire, in which the Time Lord and the Great Detective finally meet! Yes, I know, I lied about that last Doctor Who reference thing.

                                                      A Study in Emerald

Written by: Neil Gaiman
What's it about: In this award-winning short story, Gaiman is not only dipping his toe into Sherlock Holmes but is also pastiching HP Lovecraft as the tale sees Baker Street's finest investigating a murder of a member of the royal family - who, in this parallel universe, are the big, green monsters, the Great Old Ones from Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos. The melding of these two very different fictional worlds works well at the author's skilled hand as Gaiman creates something that feels quite unique. There's also fun to be had with the adverts inserted into the story that hint at other famous literary figures being in this world too (anyone fancy some Victor's Vitae that wakes up dead limbs?). Have a read of the story here and then maybe play the board game!
If you enjoyed this: Neil Gaiman has also written a more traditional Holmes mystery, 'the Case of Death and Honey' which tries to answer just why Holmes decides to retire and become a beekeeper, as Dr Watson informs us in one of Conan Doyle's stories.

                                  Moriarty: The Hound of the D'urbervilles

Written by: Kim Newman
What's it about: This collection of short stories acts as an antithesis to Conan Doyle's works and the majority of Holmes pastiches as it follows the misadventures of  Professor Moriarty and his right-hand man, Colonel Moran, as they build their criminal empire. Each story is a parody of a Conan Doyle original e.g. 'A Shambles in Belgravia' (sounds familiar, eh? These were written before Sherlock) sees Irene Adler seek the help of Moriarty while the rousing finale 'The Problem of the Final Adventure' shows the iconic meeting at the Reichenbach Falls from the other side. Apart from spoofing the common elements of Holmes stories, Newman also enjoys crossovers with other fictional worlds such as in the title story which, as you might have guessed, welds the supernatural mystery of Hound of the Baskervilles with Thomas Hardy's classic novel. I imagine that was one of those times when the title came first.
If you enjoyed this: Kim Newman has also written a series of short stories based on the Diogenes Club, Mycroft Holmes' favourite place from the canon, as a secret organisation that deals with weird and unnatural events.

                                    The House of Silk

Written By: Anthony Horowitz
What's it about: Definitely the closest in style to Conan Doyle on this list is Horowitz' mystery novel, which, thanks to support from the Conan Doyle estate, was billed as the first new Sherlock Holmes novel in nearly a hundred years. It sees an elderly Dr Watson give us one last tale involving his dear friend that had been 'too shocking to reveal until now' - a case involving an impossible murder, ghosts from the past and secret societies. Yes, all the usual Holmes trappings are in check. There are appearances from Mrs Hudson, Lestrade, the Baker Street Irregulars and, without giving anything away, there might be a cameo by a certain criminal mastermind. Thanks to this and Horowitz' track record as a crime fiction writer, the novel feels wonderfully familiar but also gives us a winding, puzzlebox mystery that you have to stay on your toes to keep up with.
If you enjoyed this: At the moment this is Anthony Horowitz' only foray into the Holmes world however there is talk of him doing a follow-up novel. In the mean time, if all this talk of Holmes pastiche has got you in the mood, you can read my own efforts at creating an authentic Conan Doyle mystery - with the beginnings of the adventures of The Melting Man and The Whistling Room being here on the blog. I'd love to hear what you thought of them.


  1. The Beekeeper's Apprentice (and the series that follows) by Laurie R. King offer a unique take on Sherlock Holmes--what happens after he retires?

    1. Thanks for reading, Jeremy. Good call there - The Beekeeper's Apprentice is another great Holmes pastiche.


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