Shadows Over Baker Street
Edited by Michael Reaves and John Pelan
My rating: 5 of 5 star
According to the receipt tucked in the back of the book, I bought this in 2013, not long after I fell headlong into the Sherlockian world. I’m pretty sure I bought it solely because of the Gaiman story. I’ve never actually read any Lovecraft; while I read a lot of Stephen King and Dean Koontz as a teenager, I moved away from horror over the years. This made for an interesting reading experience, as I picked up bits and pieces of a through-line from story to story.
I really enjoyed “A Study in Emerald”, the opening story in the collection, written by Neil Gaiman. It’s a very clever twist on A Study in Scarlet. I’m glad I read it before reading the graphic novel adaptation, which was also very, very good, but the ending packed a little more punch for me without the visuals. As with any anthology, there were stories that really appealed to me, and there were others that didn’t. Some of the stories have awfully tenuous claims to Sherlockiana, too, at least as far as I could tell. Perhaps I would have enjoyed those more if I were familiar with the other source material.
Source: Purchased at my local used bookshop.
Challenges: Counts for the 2018 Mount TBR Challenge and the Official 2018 TBR Pile Challenge. (And R.I.P. XIII (Readers Imbibing Peril), but I didn’t manage to post about it in October!)
A Study In Lavender: Queering Sherlock Holmes
edited by Joseph R.G. DeMarco
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Is Sherlock Holmes homosexual? Is Watson? Should we even be asking these questions?
DeMarco opens the Introduction to this collection of short stories with these questions. The following stories look at many facets of queer life in Victorian London as they touch on the lives of Holmes, Watson, Lestrade, and various original characters. In most of the stories, the (identified) queer characters are people other than Holmes and Watson themselves. Indeed, Holmes and Watson are all but entirely absent in at least two stories.
As with any anthology, the style varies between contributors. Most of the tales are written in traditional pastiche style, modeled on the Canon stories and narrated by Watson. One story is in third-person, one story is narrated by Holmes himself, and one story is a first-person narration by an original character.
I enjoyed the stories overall. There were a few that I just didn’t connect with, and the very first one surprised me with (content warning and spoiler alert!) references to incest. That topic is a Hard Pass for some readers, and I personally find it problematic in context. But that’s my personal engagement with the book, and yours is bound to be different.
If you are looking for Holmes/Watson romance, this is (mostly) not your book. If, however, you are looking for thoughtful, well-written explorations of the challenges faced by queer people in Victorian London, with a little Sherlockian flair, then this is the book for you.
Source: Purchased new
Reading Challenges: Counts for the Official TBR Pile Challenge and Mount TBR.
Here’s the trouble with putting out that 5-Star List before the year actually ends. I should have known I’d end up adding one more!
Just as well, since I think Welcome to Bordertown deserves special attention, anyway.
The first three Bordertown anthologies – Borderland, Bordertown, and Life on the Border – came out in the mid-80s and very early 90s, just early enough to have passed out of print right at the time I would have loved them as a teen. (The Essential Bordertown came out later and is still in print, so I don’t really have any excuse for having missed it.) So, I’m a latecomer to the party. The one good thing about that is that I have some great books to track down and read now, and it looks like the editors are working on getting e-book editions out.
This is an absolutely fantastic collection. There’s a bit of everything: short stories, poems, a comic, even a faerie jump rope chant. My expectations were high going in, since the list of contributors includes some really big names, and I was not disappointed. My personal favorite was Tim Pratt‘s “Our Stars, Our Selves”. I love when an anthology introduces me to a great author I somehow missed. I love the whole world of Bordertown.