Thursday, August 7, 2014

Review: Two Hundred and twenty-one Baker Streets by V.A., Edited by David Thomas Moore

I love Sherlock Holmes, but I am not a huge fan of Conan Doyle’s writing style. As such, I love adaptations and revisions of the famous detective, so when I found out about this anthology, I was hyped.
How do these stories hold up to my expectations? In varying degrees. Some are great, some are good, some are okay. None are outright bad, though, which is pretty impressive.
“A Scandal in Hobohemia” by Jamie Wyman is the first story in the anthology. I really liked the title and there were some other pretty clever moments. I loved Crash, the Holmes of the story, and I liked Jim Walker (Watson), as well. I would definitely like to read more of their adventures. What I didn’t like was where it ended, as there was no satisfactory resolution to the mystery.
“Black Alice” by Kelly Hale is set in the seventeenth-century and deals with Holmes and Watson as they disprove the accusations of witchcraft made upon a young girl. It was a pretty good story, the mystery is well-done and I had fun reading it, but it’s nothing special and altogether pretty forgettable.
“The Adventure of the Speckled Bandana” by J.E. Cohen was a good mystery story, set in America in the seventies. The twist is great, but I obviously won’t say what it is.  
“The Rich Man’s Hand” by Joan De La Haye is set in South Africa. It was a well-written story with good characters, but I didn’t like the plot all that much. It wasn’t really interesting or bizarre, nothing that I hadn’t seen before, and the supernatural aspects were not explained at all. At the beginning of the story, there is a quick summary of a case Holmes has just solved, about a man that has been eaten by his pet lion. It was a much more compelling story than the one plot focused on, and I wish it had been the main story.
“The Lantern Men” by Kaaron Warren was one of the stories I liked less in the anthology. Not enough is explained for it to be a good mystery, and the supernatural elements are a bit lackluster. It’s supposed to be a haunting story, but it’s not unsettling enough.
“A Woman’s Place” by Emma Newman focuses on Mrs. Hudson. The world-building was interesting and the story haw great twist. I loved the ending, and would like to read more of the adventures of this version of Holmes and Watson. Also, this was definitely my favorite Mrs. Hudson incarnation is the anthology and she tied with BBC’s “Sherlock” Mrs. Hudson as the best version of this character altogether, including Doyle’s canon.
“A Study in Scarborogough” by Guy Adams is a deeply unsettling story. Holmes and Watson are comedians, who have created the characters of the detective Sherlock Holmes and the doctor John Watson. Arthur Doyle, a fan of their work, is writing a book about them, several years after Holmes’s death and Watson’s retirement.
It wasn’t much of a mystery, but I don’t think it was meant to be a detective story at all. It was great, though, full of clever references to the original books.
“The Small World of 221B” by Ian Edginton is one of the best stories in the anthology. It’s impossible to talk in detail about what made it good without spoiling it, but it had a really great twist and the concept itself is really clever and a lot of fun.
“The Final Conjuration” by Adrian Tchaikovsky is maybe my favorite story in the anthology. The concept was incredibly fun and really original. It’s set in a high fantasy environment, and Holmes is conjured by a magician Watson. The idea of making the highly logical Holmes deal with a world where anything is possible was great, and the ending was really clever.
“The Innocent Icarus” by James Lovegrove had a great world-building and it was a good mystery to boot. It’s set in an alternate Victorian London, where almost every human belongs to one of several categories. Each category has a different set of abilities, ranging from flight to an amplified sense of smell. Holmes is one of the few people who have no category, but that doesn’t stop him from being just as extraordinary as everybody else. I’d definitely like to read other stories set in this world.
“Half There/All There” by Glen Mehn was probably the best-written story in the anthology.  It focuses much more heavily on the relationship between Holmes and Watson and their development as characters than on the mystery itself. It was excellent, if not what I was expecting from a Sherlock Holmes story.
All the Single Ladies” by Gini Koch was a fun story, with a good Holmes and a well-done mystery. It was quite good, but it didn’t stand out.
The culprit “The Patchwork Killer” by Kasey Lansdale was pretty easy to figure out, while their motives weren’t. The mystery was pretty original and interesting. Some aspects of the rest of the story were a bit confusing, though.
Parallels” by Jenni Hill was the last story in the anthology. It features the two schoolgirls Jane and Charlotte as Watson and Holmes respectively. Jane writes Sherlock Holmes fanfiction, which I loved, as it’s a clever twist on the fact that Watson’s the one who documents their adventures for the press. There’s not much of a mystery, but the characterization of Jane and Charlotte is spot-on and I had a lot of fun reading the story.
“Two Hundred and Twenty-One Baker Streets” has a good selection of stories; I found most of them to be good, and none were outright bad. I definitely recommend it to Sherlock Holmes fans.


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