Sherlock Holmes: Crossovers Casebook edited by Howard Hopkins. Book review

SHERLOCK HOLMES: CROSSOVERS CASEBOOK edited by Howard Hopkins, Moonstone, p/b, $18.95, http://moonstonebooks.com/

Reviewed by David Brzeski

This is an anthology of new stories, in which Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson interact with some of their contemporaries, both real and fictional.

The book opens with a story, by Martin Powell, in which he sends Holmes and Watson to the Lost World, in search of one of Conan Doyle’s
other fictional heroes – Professor Challenger. I liked it a lot, but then I’m biased. I can never get too much Challenger.

I quite enjoyed Christopher Sequeira’s first story, even if it lacked anything in the way of crossovers, unless I missed something. It is, however, an interesting sequel to ‘The Sign of Four’.

Martin Gately’s story, however, I wasn’t keen on at all. The methodology of the criminal simply stretched my suspension of disbelief too far, especially the part about doctoring medical books to add spurious entries on “blood lice”. I did, however, enjoy the references to ‘The Maracot Deep’ – a non-Holmes Conan Doyle novel I have yet to get around to reading.

Win Scott Eckerts’s ‘The Adventure of the Fallen Stone’, as I would expect from him, contains more than enough crossover material to make up for the lack of any in Christopher Sequeira’s first story. I liked it lot. Naming a character after his friend – editor “Mad” Mike Croteau was a nice touch.

Joe Gentile’s ‘The Secret of Grant’s Tomb was interesting. What this story really had going for it though was in being an example of one of the best things about crossover fiction. You see, I could guess which characters made up the crossover element, but I wasn’t at all familiar with them, or the their creator. I now have a number of Jacques Futrelle stories to read on my kindle.

Howard Hopkin’s Calamity Jane crossover is hilarious, if unlikely. I do, however think he missed a trick by not treating the reader to Mrs Hudson’s reaction to the smelly, drunk and obnoxious Calamity presenting herself at the front door of 221b, Baker Street.

‘The Adventure of the Sinister Chinaman’, by Barbara Hambly was worth the price of the book on its own. Great story, neatly written. Not a word out of place and an inspired crossover that had me grinning all over my face when I realised who it was.

Matthew P. Mayo’s, ‘The Folly of Flight’ reunites Holmes with a character he met several times in the past- the French gentleman burglar, Arsene Lupin. In Maurice LeBlanc’s original novels Lupin occasionally faced off against ‘Herlock Sholmès’, or ‘Homelock Shears’, in the British editions.

Richard Dean Starr and E.R. Bower’s story was for me the best of the recent Holmes/Aleister Crowley crossovers, despite having no supernatural element. In fact it was better for that. Much as I love all the recent Holmes crossovers with assorted supernatural themes, I had begun to fear that such stories were becoming the norm for new Holmes fiction, rather than interesting variations.

I remember reading Kevin Van Hook’s early comics work a good 20 years ago. He was one of the better talents to emerge during that B&W indie comics boom of the early 90s. ‘The Adventure of the Magician’s Meetings’, cowritten with Larry Engle, and featuring none other than Harry Houdini, is very good.

Matthew Baugh’s ‘The Adventure of the Ethical Assassin’ kept the quality up and also made me want to read the original book, ‘The Assassination Bureau’, by Jack London. The sly reference to ‘The Most dangerous Game’, by Richard Connell was a clever addition.

Will Murray, as expected, kept the standard high, with ‘The Adventure of the Imaginary Nihilist’, featuring Colonel Richard Henry Savage.

The next story, Don Roff’s ‘The House on Moreau Street’, I have major problems with. There’s nothing wrong with the story per se, but the writing is flawed. Roff peppers his story with inappropriate usage of words. I can forgive the use of modern phrases like “checked out”, and “peace officer” and even the US spelling of “labor”, but how can a knot be “unique”, yet “one commonly used by sailors”?

The final story, ‘The Adventure of the Lost Specialist’, by Christopher Sequeira (the only author to have two stories in the book) is a somewhat fanciful affair that will divide readers. In this story, Sequeira drags our intrepid heroes headlong into the Twilight Zone. It’s so odd that one can almost ignore the error he makes in referring to British Rail, which didn’t exist in 1903.

Overall, this is an excellent collection, with only a couple of truly disappointing stories out of the fourteen.