FFB: Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Raleigh Legacy

by L.B. Greenwood, © 1986, St. Martins 1987 mass market paperback, mystery (pastiche)

this is the 51st in my series of forgotten books

The first Greenwood Holmes pastiche I read back in 2008 was The Thistle of Scotland. I rated it as “just average” but I also had his one at hand – probably bought both used copies at the same time –  and was in the mood for something Holmes-ish.

Legacy is more of an adventure than Thistle, less of a cerebral puzzle, and finds Holmes and Watson, who tells the tale as usual, making several trips into a rather bleak area of the Cotswolds. They clamber about in rough countryside, inspect gloomy ruins, do a lot of night hiking, all in search of clues to the possible location of a legacy belonging to the last surviving heir of Sir Walter Raleigh. There is a mysteriously worded legacy letter, only available to be read by the heir, not to be copied or removed from the office of the law firm that has held it for centuries.

There are a limited number of players and the evil member of the group is readily apparent. I’m sorry to report that no amount of misdirection, weak as it is, can suffice to fool the reader, though Watson remains clueless to the end, and the long – overly, tiresomely so – exposition at the end of the book, in which Greenwood, as Holmes, explains the whole business, reminded me a little of watching an Andy Warhol film that seemingly has no ending. As with the previous book, we are told that it was all obvious to Holmes, though the reader is kept in the dark, having to rely on the occasional comment such as “That’s significant, don’t you think, Watson?” followed by the expected “And after that Holmes would say no more”.

Greenwood has written three of these pastiches, as far as I can tell. Some people like them. The books seem to be a little thin, for lack of a better description, as if they aren’t fully fleshed out and the writing was done on a tight schedule. Not weighty, not a lot of texture, characters are just off the mark, somehow. No, this isn’t awful, it’s just not terribly good.

~ ~ ~ ~

Series organizer Patti Abbott has all the FFB goods on her blog, Pattinase, with a list of this week’s participating blogs and, in a day or two, a summary.

About Richard Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
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13 Responses to FFB: Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Raleigh Legacy

  1. Bill Crider says:

    Haven’t tried these. I’m not encouraged.

  2. I’m glad you warned us about these pastiches, Rick. Like you, I’m sometimes drawn to Sherlock Holmes adventures written by contemporary writers (Manly Wade Wellman’s book comes to mind). But, to be honest with you, most of the Holmes pastiches are pretty bad.

  3. Evan Lewis says:

    Along with Thistle, I believe there’s only one other, The Case of Sabina Hall. I think I liked these just fine when I read them twenty years ago, but I probably liked Sherlock Holmes’s War of the Worlds then, too.

  4. Richard says:

    Bill & George – As I said, not bad, just not terribly good. I’ve certainly read better Holmes pastiches, there are some good ones out there. I’m reading another now by Frank Thomas that is much better.

    Evan – yes, you are right, there are just the three novels. He also contributed stories to several Holmes pastiche collections.

  5. Todd Mason says:

    So, are you particularly fond of anyone’s pastiches? I’ve certainly enjoyed the Michael Chabon novella, and did like the short form of the first by the Wellmans, and I remember the Meyer novels as pleasant…

  6. Like Evan, I read the Greenwood pastiches a good many years ago. Liking them then and now likely would be two different things. I’m not encouraged to try them again.

  7. Richard says:

    What Holmes pastiches do I like? The couple of ones by Hardwick I’ve read were pretty good, and I like the Laurie King Holmes/Russell books. June Thompson’s may be the best, and Frank Thomas did some good ones too. Yes, the Meyers books were pretty good. I also really like the collections Holmes for the Holidays and More Holmes for the Holidays, which, by the way, each have a story by Bill Crider in them.

    Also, there are the different but based on Holmes books and stories, the favorite of which are the Solar Pons works by August Derlith and, later, Basil Copper. I also like the Lord Darcy books – which have a fantasy element – by Randall Garrett.

    And I’m sure of the many hundreds written that I have not read there are a lot of good ones.

  8. Richard says:

    further note – I mentioned “the many hundreds written” in the above comment. My list has 897 items on it, which includes all Holmes-related types, fiction and non-fiction. It’s a list I got quite some time ago from a newsgroup rec.arts.books/alt.fan.holmes/alt.answers which is no longer active.

  9. J F Norris says:

    I have always counted Rick Boyer’s The Giant Rat of Sumatra as one of my favorite Holmes pastiches. There are so many of these out there and I never know which ones are worth investigating. Thanks for the heads up on this one. There seem to be just as many with Conan Doyle now. I was fairly impressed with The Sherlockian – enjoyed the Conan Doyle/Bram Stoker sections moreso than the Baker Street Irregular sections since that part was just a rehash of the R. Lancelyn Green tragedy.

    Lord Darcy! There’s a character not often talked about. The stories are clever and work well. His novel, Too Many Magicians, is one I pretty much hated. Much Ado about a Locked Room and yes, it amounted to nothing. For me at least.

  10. Patti Abbott says:

    Basically I don’t think it’s such a good idea to mess with anyone else’s creation. And a pastiche seems that much worse.

  11. Richard says:

    John – thanks for stopping by. I’d agree with your comments, I have the Boyer right here waiting to be re-read. I liked it the first time out. I began The Sherlockian after B’con, but then packed it for the move and it hasn’t resurfaced yet.

    Patti – when you want a Sherlock Holmes fix, and have read the canon a lot of times, a pastiche, if well done, is an nice way to spend some time.

  12. Todd Mason says:

    Now I’m thinking about the Firesign Theatre version of THE GIANT RAT OF SUMATRA. Hm…now the book of parodies/pastiches that I was going to do for FFB seems a lock, thanks to Patti’s comment…

  13. Richard says:

    Todd – excellent! I’m planning to do the other Holmes pastiche I’m now reading, assuming I finish it and do the write-up. On the way to the garden show now… taking the Met.

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