The Scarlet Threads and Skeins We Unravel
"The moment seemed to sum up my extraordinary friendship with Sherlock Holmes. Together, we had stood in many a drawing-room, many a library, and in our own rooms in Baker Street, examining evidence, discussing the significance of trifles, sifting through the debris of shattered lives, searching for truth and justice."
Continuing with my second anthology to read, relish and review for Sherlock Holmes' Birthday Month is Murder in Baker Street edited by Martin H. Greenberg., Jon L. Lettenberg and Daniel Stashower. This collection is composed of eleven compact tales of hard-boiled cases that are conventionally delivered in the typical Doyle-esque Victorian classic narrative which works to a certain extent in the seven stories that I favored the most. I was fresh from the heels of the first anthology I read (Twenty-Two Hundred Baker Streets) so I think comparing and contrasting these volumes has been unavoidable. It's truly an apples-and-oranges scenario, however. While Twenty-Two Hundred was a volume that focuses more on alternate-universe scenarios and speculative fiction, the stories in Murder in Baker Street are all set in the established canon timelines with a few tweaks where Holmes and Watson were able to meet certain real-life figures (such as Bram Stoker) or become privy to witness the effects of inventions that they were never able to be acquainted with in Doyle's original stories.
In the editors' introduction, they specifically stated that they wanted their collection to stay true to the essence of Arthur Conan Doyle's characterization and formulaic writing and if you're like me who will always prefer the canon over anything else (including visual adaptations; however, Elementary to me is the closest one that captured the partnership of Holmes and Watson and the sheer attention to detail and procedural investigation that Doyle have employed whenever Holmes unravels a case) then this volume will please you if it's strictly based in a purist's perspective. The authors who contributed their stories have certainly made a stellar effort to incorporate the exceptional elements that made Doyle's Sherlock Holmes timeless and critically-acclaimed in the first place, including the atmospheric grime and smog of London with all its horrors and wonders.
Each tale is self-contained as most of Doyle's short stories tend to be where a seemingly mundane or inexplicable problem at hand is brought by a client (who may be a victim, perpetrator or both) to 221b Baker Street where the world's only consulting detective and loyal bibliographer and friend reside. There the investigation starts which breathlessly or sometimes patiently unfolds until we get to the part where a twist or a solution is revealed that could either be very shocking or rather simple yet elegantly detailed and satisfying nonetheless.
Out of the eleven stories, I enjoyed seven the most. These are (1) The Man from Capetown by Stuart M. Kaminsky, the first story that establishes the setting and tone of the entire anthology; (2) The Siren of Sennen Cove by Peter Tremayne where a religious man visited Holmes after the detective's retirement to solve the mystery behind a series of shrunken ships in the coast; a very whimsical Moriarty story called (3) The Case of the Bloodless Sock by Anne Perry; (4) A Hansom for Mr. Holmes by Gillan Linscot that is narrated by another character, a modest cabbie who wanted nothing to do with Sherlock Holmes until he gets caught up in an assassination attempt; the very straightforward yet amusing puzzle-story (5) The Adventure of the Chesire Cheese by Jon L. Breen; (6) Darkest Gold by L.B Greenwood which had Watson trying to fool Holmes with a disguise as he follows his friend to a rather dangerous scheme involving a married couple and an ethnic tribe; and, finally, (7) The Remarkable Worm by Carolyn Wheat where Holmes and Watson get commissioned for their very own wax figures to be displayed in the London Museum yet they somehow ended up stumbling upon a terrible family affair. These were charming stories that hit me with nostalgia the strongest.
This anthology will be better appreciated if you've enjoyed the Doyle canon itself since the style and linguistics of the stories here are more conventional and in line with how the original author has written Holmes and Watson as well as the cases they solve.