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review 2018-10-12 22:47
Out Now
Gaslight Gothic: Strange Tales of Sherlock Holmes - Charles Prepolec,J.R. Campbell

Disclaimer: I received an ebook ARC of this book via a giveaway at Librarything.

Gaslight Gothic is a collection of ten stories that combine Sherlock Holmes with gothic literature, in terms of style and characters. Poe makes an appearance in one story as does Hyde for example. Most of the stories are more gothic in style and plot than borrowing characters.

As in the majority, if not all, short story collections, the stories are a mixed bag. Many of the them follow the conceit of having Watson write the stories. In “The Strange Adventure of Mary Holder”, Nancy Holder nails Watson’s voice the best. In many ways, she also captures the character of Holmes the best. “The Cuckoo’s Hour” by Mark A. Latham is also a strong contender for best story in the collection. It does remind the reader of the Holmes stories that take place on a country estate. James Lovegrove’s use a well-known gothic tale works extremely well.

The use of Holmes and the gothic novel does seem to fill a hole in the Sherlock Holmes oeuvre that I didn’t know needed filling. 

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review 2018-10-12 08:03
Par for course (it's Holmes by ACD)
The Valley of Fear - Arthur Conan Doyle

Despite never having read this one before, I called it soon enough.


Second part, as is par for course with Holmes novels MO, was a narration of the history (on a far place and piquant circumstances for the edifice of London society), spawning the issues at present. Was mislead nicely for a bit, but called too by the letter.


I have to say though that both instances were very gratifying conclusions.


The epilogue was an interesting partner to the third chapter in a way.


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review 2018-09-11 10:15
Encounters of Sherlock Holmes - George Mann,Mark Hodder,Paul Magrs,James Lovegrove,Eric Brown,Richard Dinnick,David Barnett,Cavan Scott,Mark Wright,Stuart Douglas,Kelly Hale,Mags L. Halliday,Nick Kyme,Steve Lockley

As always with a set of stories this is a mixed bag, but there's a love of the stories of Sherlock Holmes that comes across from all of the stories.  Little details like the Persian Slipper become stories.  There's mashups from other stories (H G Wells War of the Worlds for example) and they often take an interesting twist.


None of the stories are terribly memorable or made me want to hunt up more by the authors but none were terrible and would suggest to me to avoid those authors.

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review 2018-09-09 14:53
Better with age
The Hound of the Baskervilles - Arthur Conan Doyle

I find that while still not my favourite Holmes, I liked it better this time around. I think I might have been too young, and found it too dreary and long for my age. Gothic is also an acquired taste that came with age for me, so that might have played a part.


The other thing that turned interesting, beyond finding the pace a lot more palatable, was that Holmes is a lot more present than I remembered. Part of it is knowing, and so catching, the hints of him all around of course, but I think the pages without his obvious person were too long for my kid self's perception.


And, well, the fabulous Stephen Fry's narration is a definitive plus.


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review 2018-09-01 01:39
Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans
Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection - Arthur Conan Doyle,Stephen Fry

“To act, Sherlock--to act!” cried Mycroft, springing to his feet. “All my instincts are against this explanation. Use your powers! Go to the scene of the crime! See the people concerned! Leave no stone unturned! In all your career you have never had so great a chance of serving your country.”

“Well, well!” said Holmes, shrugging his shoulders. “Come, Watson! And you, Lestrade, could you favour us with your company for an hour or two?

Oh, my, where to start with this one? There is so much to love here:


- (M)ycroft who is either the first human computer or the first, erm, ....."M" or both? 

- The underlying story of increasing political tensions between Britain and Germany?

- The brilliant inclusion of the London Underground, which has been around since the 1860s but which seemed too modern for earlier Holmes stories that still featured hansom cabs and which therefore is a definite switch to a more modern era (even if this is set in 1895)?

First off, let me say this: I love a good spy story, but when I think of Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes, I think of mystery, murder, blackmail, and strange dogs - not of spies. And yet, in this story we have all of this (minus the dog) neatly fitted into a story of espionage that holds its own when compared to any of the short stories by Ian Fleming - I might say it is even better because it does not feature that awful guy Bond.
It's even pretty satisfying when looking at how stories of espionage - the better ones, in my opinion, anyway - relate to the political context in their time and show some of the author's awareness of the current affairs at the time of writing. 
Although the story is set in 1895, it was written in 1908 and there is a definite sense of the political tensions between Britain and Germany of the time. I mean, essentially, this story is about the naval arms race of the time, which was one of the key issues of contempt between the monarchs of both countries. 
Reading this in hindsight, it also makes me wonder to what extent stories like The Bruce-Partington Plans and Erskine Childers' The Riddle of the Sands (first published in 1903) may have influenced public opinion, given that public opinion was not yet used (has it ever been?) to separate fact from fiction? We know that Childers' book inspired the Admiralty to consider building a naval base. We know that later adaptations of Sherlock Holmes were used to boost morale and promote the war efforts during WWII. But to consider that this sub-plot had already been written into the original Holmes stories? That was something that had not stood out for me on previous reads. 
Of course the last story in this collection, The Last Bow, would make this even clearer, but the Bruce-Partington Plans were written years before that famous last story. 
So, in this story we are getting to know more of Mycroft, who clearly is the unofficial head of the intelligence services ... which may have existed in a different form from the later MI5 and MI6 that we know from later popular series, but which nevertheless have existed: 
"By the way, do you know what Mycroft is?”
I had some vague recollection of an explanation at the time of the Adventure of the Greek Interpreter. “You told me that he had some small office under the British government.”
Holmes chuckled.
“I did not know you quite so well in those days. One has to be discreet when one talks of high matters of state. You are right in thinking that he under the British government. You would also be right in a sense if you said that occasionally he IS the British government.” “My dear Holmes!”
“I thought I might surprise you. Mycroft draws four hundred and fifty pounds a year, remains a subordinate, has no ambitions of any kind, will receive neither honour nor title, but remains the most indispensable man in the country.”
“But how?”
“Well, his position is unique. He has made it for himself. There has never been anything like it before, nor will be again. He has the tidiest and most orderly brain, with the greatest capacity for storing facts, of any man living. The same great powers which I have turned to the detection of crime he has used for this particular business. The conclusions of every department are passed to him, and he is the central exchange, the clearinghouse, which makes out the balance. All other men are specialists, but his specialism is omniscience. We will suppose that a minister needs information as to a point which involves the Navy, India, Canada and the bimetallic question; he could get his separate advices from various departments upon each, but only Mycroft can focus them all, and say offhand how each factor would affect the other. They began by using him as a short-cut, a convenience; now he has made himself an essential. In that great brain of his everything is pigeonholed and can be handed out in an instant. Again and again his word has decided the national policy. He lives in it. He thinks of nothing else save when, as an intellectual exercise, he unbends if I call upon him and ask him to advise me on one of my little problems. But Jupiter is descending to-day."

As I mentioned, this is also the first story that features the London Underground in its plot. This is a huge departure from the previous Holmes stories and shows (just like the introduction of electricity in a previous story) the change - not in the ACD's surroundings (the Tube had been going since the 1860s) - in the author's attitude towards his protagonists. Instead of being firmly implanted in the Victorian era, this mention of the Underground - rather than the overground rail network - shows the characters embracing modernism. That is quite striking when reading the canon in order of publication. 
Lastly, I am keen to point out that this is also the story that so prominently features that odious yellow fog that I so hate in wannabe Victoriana, but that was a real thing and caused serious health issues at the time. 
I say I hate the mention of this yellow fog in other works, but I really do. This is mostly because so many modern authors seem to rely on the mention of the fog to create an atmosphere of Victorian London. For me this backfires in most cases because: it doesn't matter how many times someone mentions the bloody fog, it does not make the story more Victorian if other details are completely wrong. Also, the fog alone does not create atmosphere; the rest of the writing has to support it. The worst offender that I have ever come across was David Morrell's Murder as a Fine Art - 96 references of the fog, 0 atmosphere.
However, one of the many fine reasons of why I love ACD's writing is that he's already shown us how creating a setting and atmosphere using the blasted fog should be done: 
In the third week of November, in the year 1895, a dense yellow fog settled down upon London. From the Monday to the Thursday I doubt whether it was ever possible from our windows in Baker Street to see the loom of the opposite houses. The first day Holmes had spent in cross-indexing his huge book of references. The second and third had been patiently occupied upon a subject which he hand recently made his hobby--the music of the Middle Ages. But when, for the fourth time, after pushing back our chairs from breakfast we saw the greasy, heavy brown swirl still drifting past us and condensing in oily drops upon the windowpanes, my comrade’s impatient and active nature could endure this drab existence no longer. He paced restlessly about our sitting room in a fever of suppressed energy, biting his nails, tapping the furniture, and chafing against inaction.
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