Review ~ Sons of Moriarty

This book was provided to me by F+W/Adams Media and Tyrus Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sons of Moriarty and More Stories of Sherlock Holmes ed. by Loren D. Estleman

Cover via Goodreads

A follow-up collection to well-received “The Perils of Sherlock Holmes”! Award-winning author Loren D. Estleman has curated a collection of Sherlock Holmes stories from some of the finest authors in “Sons of Moriarty and More Stories of Sherlock Holmes.” This is the first time that these stories appear together in one anthology, including “Sons of Moriarty,” a Sherlock Holmes novella, appearing here for the first time.

Estleman’s last Holmes collection, “The Perils of Sherlock Holmes,” was authorized by the Estate of Arthur Conan Doyle and was met with rave reviews. It was dubbed “an excellent collection of short stories and essays” by the “New York Review of Books,” “an entertaining and diverting read” by Bookpleasures.com, and was said to transport readers “to another place and time during the series of short stories that pay homage to the legend that is Sherlock Holmes” on the Pop Culture Guy Blog. (via Goodreads)

The cover copy says a lot about Estleman’s previous collection and absolutely nothing about *this* anthology, Sons of Moriarty, and that’s a mistake. I had three preconceptions going into this anthology:

  1. These were all new stories. (They’re not.)
  2. These stories were, maybe, Moriarty-centric. (They’re not.)
  3. These stories are all classic pastiches. (They’re not.)

Looking at a few other reviews, I’m not the only reader whose expectations have been slighted.

This anthology is held together by an interesting thread: they all involve Holmes dealing with more modern crimes or Holmes written into a post-WWI setting. But it’s a very tenuous thread that bind loosely and not always successfully.

The anthology starts with “The Infernal Machine” by John Lutz. This story was a reread for me. Set late in Holmes’ career, Holmes and Watson encounter the Gatling gun. The duo, of course, meditate on the horrors that could be wrought by the titular infernal machine. It’s a good start and a great bookend to the final story of anthology. Unfortunately, it’s a rocky road between the first tale and the last.

“The Adventure of the Double Bogey Man” by Robert L. Fish is not a pastiche, but a parody. Personally, I have a pretty liberal love for Sherlock Holmes, but I really dislike parodies. Holmes need to be the smartest man in the room, arrogance and all. Yes, this story involves Holmes and something utterly new to him, but sticking a parody story in the middle of a serious anthology is not a great move.

Likewise, “The Case of the Bloodless Sock” by Anne Perry is another sort of fiction that I don’t entirely understand. Holmes is a man of expertise and experience. If you’re writing a young Holmes, he doesn’t have all of those things. Writing teenage Holmes, smarts intact, into a completely modern setting is simply pandering to a YA audience.

“Sherlocks” by Al Sarrantonio is an even further extension of Sherlock in the future. The story is SF noir and sherlocks are an information gathering technology. There is not a true Sherlock in sight.

There are no Sherlocks in “The Adventure of the Frightened Baronet” by August Derleth either, but this is more of a Holmes story than the previous three. Solar Pons was a character created to bring Holmes into the 1920s and 30s (as Wikipedia notes). The change of setting did not seem obvious to me, but this character and the story are as good as Doyle could have written. It’s a very good pastiche. I have been meaning to read some of Derleth’s stories and I was pleased to find one here.

Until I started writing this review, I had forgotten about “Before the Adventures” by Lenore Carroll. It is a fictional letter from Doyle to the editor of Strand magazine about the origins of Holmes & Watson. The inspirational Cockney personality of Budger not only provides Doyle with his character, but puts the entirety of Doyle’s life in order. I have no idea why it’s included in this anthology or why I’d find it more interesting than what might have factually been Doyle’s inspirations.

All of the stories in this anthology should be in service to Loren D. Estleman’s novella, “Sons of Moriarty.” Comprising the last 40% of the book, it is the show piece and it certainly could have withstood better companions. It is also the only previously unpublished work. While it runs a little long and is maybe little light on the deductive reasoning, it’s a pretty good pastiche. Holmes and Watson are older and encounter the Mafia. Organized crime is something that traditional Holmes never dealt with.

Despite it’s very good points, this anthology felt padded out for the purposes of making it appropriately book length. Hopefully, readers will skip the stories that don’t really belong and still join author and editor Estleman for his fine tale at the end.

Genre: Mystery, mostly.
Why did I choose to read this book? Got me with the Moriarty, who is not in evidence.
Did I finish this book? (If not, why?) Yes, but it was touch and go for a while.
Craft Lessons: Don’t pad for padding’s sake.
Format: Kindle ebook
Procurement: NetGalley

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