Written by Jim Clelland (@UrbanSpaceman64)
Shadows of Sherlock Holmes is a slightly misleading title as none of the short stories featured in the book have anything to do with Sherlock Holmes. It is merely that some of the stories take place in the time of Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary Barker Street detective.
In The Shadow of Sherlock Holmes features about twenty short stories by authors well known and not so well known. To be honest some of the stories should maybe have stayed in the archives but it does at least give the reader a chance to see how well (or not) some of A.C. Doyle’s contemporaries fared compared to “the master”.
Edgar Allen Poe features, as does Wilkie Collins, Anton Chekhov, E.W. Hornung, Ernest Bramah and Baroness Orczy. Edgar Allen Poe is extremely well known for his tales of mystery, imagination and the macabre and of course for creating one of the world’s first looked room detective stories, The Murders in the Rue Morgue.
For those of you who don’t know Baroness Orczy, Emma Orczy was the creator of The Scarlet Pimpernel as well as the somewhat mysterious Man in the Corner, a detective who solved the seemingly unsolvable from the corner table of a tearoom in London. Crime and cakes combined. Sounds like an ideal way to spend an afternoon. He appears in about a dozen short stories and comes from the Sherlock / Mycroft Holmes stable of detectives where brains win over brawn.
I’ve jotted down a synopsis on a small number of the stories. Have a look and see what you think. To be honest it’s a rather nice little read when you’re on holiday or don’t want to spend too much time on a novel.
The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allen Poe – is probably one of the most famous “detective” stories ever written. After the theft of a vitally important and politically sensitive letter, the famous Parisian amateur detective C. Auguste Dupin is requested to retrieve the document. It is possibly in the possession of a ruthless government official, who plans to use it for blackmail, but since no one can find it on his person or in his premises he is therefore untouchable. If the contents are revealed it could cause a downfall in the government. Can Dupin defeat a man who has so far defeated the Paris police?
The Swedish Match by Anton Chekhov – is from his A Night in the Cemetery and Other Stories of Crime & Suspense. Chekhov is not always known for his crime stories but this rather intriguing, locked room mystery with a missing body, a handful of suspects and a surprise ending, not earth shattering but it works.
Nine Points of the Law by E.W. Hornung – is a rather entertaining story from Raffles: The amateur Cracksman and involves a case of art theft, where Harry “Bunny” Manders, A.J. Raffles’ partner in crime, must save the day when an apparent theft goes wrong. Or does it? But let’s not ruin the day for “Bunny”. In case you don’t know anything about Ernest William Hornung, he was an author in his own right and brother-in-law to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, so I suppose there is a connection to Sherlock Holmes in this collection after all.
The Ghost of Massingham Mansions by Ernest Bramah – is a short story featuring Bramah’s most famous creation the blind detective Max Carrados and is part of the collection The Eyes of Max Carrados published in 1923. It’s a nice little mystery allowing the blind detective to use his unique gifts, i.e., his heightened other senses, to solve the crime.
The other stories and authors featured are:
The Biter Bit by Wilkie Collins
The Stolen Cigar-Case by Brett Harte
A Princess’s Vengeance by C.L. Pirkis
The Absent-Minded Coterie by Robert Barr
The Secrets of the Black Brotherhood by Dick Donovan
The Episode of the Diamond Links by Grant Allen
A Clever Capture by Guy Clifford
The Stir outside the Café Royal by Clarence Rook
The Duchess of Wiltshire’s Diamonds by Guy Boothby
The Problem of Dressing Room A by Jacques Futrelle
The Hundred-Thousand-Dollar Robbery by Hesketh Pritchard
The Surrey Cattle-Maiming Mystery by Herbert Jenkins
Sexton Blake and the Time-Killer – Anonymous
One Possessed by E.W. Hornung
The Great Pearl Mystery by Baroness Orczy
It was a rather entertaining holiday read and if you fancy spending a few hours in the company of detectives who are not Sherlock Holmes, this is a good place to do it.