Sherlock Holmes items #45-49

It has been a few months, I see, since I posted any update to my small collection. I’m nearly to 50, at which point perhaps I will attempt some overview of the whole for the first time. I think I’ll get caught up through 49, now, though.

I had good luck last night at the Lakewood Public Library spring book sale. (Membership in Friends of Lakewood Public Library, $2/year, permits entry to the preview sale which is helpful if you’re looking for a specific niche that might otherwise be picked over before the regular sale begins.) For $1.50 I acquired

  • The Shadow of Reichenbach Falls, by John R. King
  • The Brothers of Baker Street, by Michael Robertson
  • Sherlock Holmes and the Rune Stone Mystery, by Larry Millett

This is pretty good. Three novels, all of which I had seen before but none of which I have read; I passed a handful of others that I already own or just didn’t want. King’s novel apparently teams up Holmes with Carnacki (look him up) and seems promising. The Brothers of Baker Street is a modern-day story with only a tangential Holmes connection, and as I realized after getting home this is not the first in the series. But I have wanted to try out this concept, so we’ll see how it is.

My enthusiasm tends to cool a bit with multi-volume authors (other than ACD), at least when it comes to Holmes. I’m not sure whether or not that’s anything besides coincidence; the work of the prolific Donald Thomas just seems fairly bland, and I got two or three chapters into Laurie King’s second novel and have read no further in it or her series, since. I was of two minds about The Rune Stone Mystery, as I really enjoyed Millett’s first outing The Red Demon, but felt his second effort beginning to go off the rails. The strength of that first book, though, plus my interest in the rune stone angle, won me over. (I was also unsure how much I wanted a cheap pocket book edition, but at the same time I was surprised to find that one had been issued; I must presume that Mr. Millett has enjoyed relatively brisk sales and perhaps that’s a good sign also.)

The two other items since my last update are both plastic discs, rather than books.

How Sherlock Changed the World (item #45) is a two-part PBS documentary, eminently satisfying. The title feels so cliché, but the production is very watchable. I don’t think it contains any brilliant insights, but splicing some new and decent dramatized scenes from the original novels, with real-life criminologists discussing how those novels have inspired and guided their work, results in a pleasant couple of hours’ viewing.

Item #46 is Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments, the latest game in the same series that includes The Testament of Sherlock Holmes (item #39). I am about 2/3 of the way through the game, and enjoying it as well. Most of the faults are play control; some of these may well be quirks of the particular edition (PlayStation3) that I’m playing. I am particularly not a fan of ending most cases with near impossible one-shot “twitch” games, which seem designed for a mouse rather than the PS3’s joystick control. Aside from the crap interface, I don’t think a non-cerebral quickdraw challenge really belongs in a Sherlock Holmes game, certainly not as a recurring element.

Even with these flaws, however, the game is great. In some ways this feels like the best of the handful of Holmes video games I’ve played, even after adjusting for primitive graphics vs today’s near photorealistic 3D environments. (Though the latter remain magnificent.) This one really feels like it’s more a game designed around being Holmes, than Holmes added to a typical adventure game. The in-game processes of analyzing clues and making deductions is fine, fine work. I also like the fact that in this game you investigate a series of crimes, basically as self-contained adventures, rather than one big plot. Holmes began in a novel, but the variety sampler of short stories is really central to the canon IMO.

Also, bonus points for basing one of the cases on one of two short stories Doyle wrote, whose “amateur reasoner of some celebrity” is never named as Holmes but which are regarded by many as extracanonical adventures anyway. Sherlock Holmes was always a professional, not an amateur, detective, but it’s still a splendid touch to provide him opportunity to solve the case which the “amateur reasoner” bungles in the original story.

I suppose that as long as I’m rounding things up, I may as well make note of this. It is not part of my collection because I don’t believe there’s any physical object to own, at the moment, but it is apparently a genuine lost Sherlock Holmes story by Arthur Conan Doyle which you can read via the preceding link. I’m still flabbergasted by this because, as anyone who reads much beyond the canon quickly realizes, this is the most common trope in Sherlock Holmes pastiches, i.e. that the new work is actually a lost manuscript recently discovered in an attic. The manuscripts are usually alleged to be Watson’s—part of the conceit that Holmes and Watson were real people and Doyle was just the latter’s literary agent—but this is still a surreal case of life imitating art. If true, at least.

I still can’t quite believe that it is. I saw the news reported, apparently in all seriousness, from more than one source. I’m still sort of expecting, all the same, that this was all some odd gag that went over my head.

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