I just finished reading the anthology Gaslight Arcanum: Uncanny Tales of Sherlock Holmes. Reviews of each story are below.
As with any collection, there were highs and lows. Fortunately, the highs greatly outpaced the lows.
As a collection, this is a hearty 4 STARS.
"The Comfort of the Seine" by Stephen Volk
Young Holmes, Edgar Allan Poe and the origins of Holmes as a detective. Great Story!
"The Adventure of Lucifer's Footprint" by Christopher Fowler
This story was missing something.
The flow between scenes was awkward. One second you are in London, the next Devon. One second you are in the local tavern, the next walking a field. There is little or no mention of means of conveyance.
The author also missed the descriptive scenes that help make Holmes stories. Holmes and Watson are sitting in front of a fire with a brandy. You are offered little more description than that.
Additionally, I believe there are references to a failure of one of the characters in the Charge of the Light Brigade. I am not a British military history scholar and didn't feel it worth my while to fill in the blanks where the author failed to do so.
Another reviewer suggested that "The Adventure of Lucifer's Footprint" was just an outline of a story and not the completed work. I think that is accurate.
"The Deadly Sin of Sherlock Holmes" by Tom English
English's Holmes and Watson are note perfect. The setting was right on. This one hit all of the proper notes with one glaring exception, the resolution of the mystery lacked explanation.
Holmes for certain figured it out. He had resigned to the fact that he was dealing with something supernatural. A dangerous experiment was conducted providing Holmes with the proof he needed. But, there was never any hint as to how or why the experiment that would prove the case worked and no clue as to why Holmes made the conclusions that he made.
Fill in the blanks and this story is top notch. Without that....meh.
And now we come to the reason I bought the anthology to start with:
"The Color that Came to Chiswick" by William Meikle
Having read Holmes, Carnacki and Professor Challenger pastiches by Meikle, I knew this one would be a win. I like to be proven correct.
Holmes and Watson are dispatched to investigate a case of industrial sabotage at a local brewery. What they discover may have other-worldly origins.
As is often the case with short stories, you find yourself enjoying the story, setting or mystery so much that you feel a slight sense of disappointment at its end. That is the case here. My only complaint is selfish. I wish it were longer.
"From the Tree of Time" by Fred Saberhagen
Saberhagen is known best to me as the author of his Dracula series of books.
In this tale, Sherlock Holmes employs his friend, the vampire Count Dracula, to assist him on a blackmail case. Holmes feels that Dracula's knowledge of vampires could be particularly helpful in this instance.
The first third of this short story is Dracula dispelling for the narrator the myths surrounding vampires. It seemed overdone. But, it was relevant to the conclusion of the story.
"The Executioner" by Lawrence C. Connolly
This short story is a different view on the moments after the death of Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls.
There was very little mystery to the story. But, the premise is good and makes an interesting retelling of those vague events. It would probably also make a strong starting point for a new series.
"A Country Death" by Simon Kurt Unsworth
A consulting detective is called in to investigate a mysterious death...the death of Sherlock Holmes.
This one is more of a horror story than a Sherlock Holmes mystery. But, that is just fine. It is very well written and touches on a well documented hobby of Sherlock Holmes in his retirement.
"Sherlock Holmes and the Great Game" by Kevin Cockle
I am not usually a fan of Holmes outside of Victorian Great Britain. I feel that part of the appeal of Sherlockian stories is that specific setting and often can't abide any deviation. I found this story though a bit intriguing.
Set in frozen rural Canada, Holmes and Watson, armed with an ancient relic are hunting killers that may have some ancient, dark origin. The hints given as to Holmes' role in this mystery may also indicate something darker and more aged in our hero.
This tale left me wanting to know more about what was merely hinted at.
"Sherlock Holmes and the Diving Bell" by Simon Clark
"Watson. Come at once. That which cannot be. Is."
With this message, Holmes summons Watson to join him in a mystery five years in the making.
A marine salvage tragedy has left one man on the ocean floor, stranded in his diving bell with no chance for rescue.
Five years later, diving on the same wreck, the salvage crew suffers yet another tragedy resulting in the deaths of two more divers, who appear to have died of fright after hearing calls from their comrade lost five years earlier.
Enter Holmes and Watson.
"The Greatest Mystery" by Paul Kane
Holmes and Watson are faced with a series of seemingly random murders committed by some close acquaintance or loved one of the victims. Only Holmes is able to discern a pattern to the crimes and only Holmes, with the aid of Watson, is equipped to face his greatest foe.
This short story got a little long-winded in both the first few and last few pages. But, the meat of the story was fantastic!
"The House of Blood" by Tony Richards
The immortal Sherlock Holmes investigates a series of murders in modern day Las Vegas.
Again, I am not usually a fan of Holmes outside of Victorian Great Britain. But, in this case it seemed to work.
Richards leaves just enough questions about Holmes to have piqued my interest in this story line. How, for instance, did Holmes become immortal? What type of immortal is he, as when responding to a comment about vampires, he says, "There are no such creatures."?
I would be interested in reading further along these lines if Richards chose to write it.
"The Adventure of the Six Maledictions" by Kim Newman
This tale is told in the first person from the point of view of Colonel Sebastian Moran, the right hand man of Moriarty. Holmes and Watson do not make an appearance in this story.
I found it a little rough getting into the flow of Moran's colloquialisms. But, once I got the groove, this story was actually quite good.
Moriarty's scheming stole the show and the tidbits of humor hidden in Moran's colorful language flavored every paragraph.
I have a couple of Kim Newman's novels that have been deep in the to-be-read stack for quite some time. Those books just moved closer to the top of that mountain.