ffb: The Secret Cases of Sherlock Holmes

this is the 120th in my series of posts on forgotten or seldom read books

The Secret Cases of Sherlock Holmes by Donald Thomas, Macmillan (UK) , 1997 – hard cover – pastiche: Sherlock Holmes short stories

secret cases of S HolmesThe investigations described in this volume relate the role of Sherlock Holmes in seven major crimes or scandals. The premise is that the events were so politically sensitive all of the papers pertaining to them were shut away until after Holmes’ death. Thus Watson is compiling into narrative from his recollections, aided by the afore mentioned papers, long years after the actual events.

This premise allows an explanation for the fact that the narrative tone of the book is somewhat different from the adventures that have been related in the past. Premise or no, this difference bothered me and it took a while to accept that Watson was writing of these events so long after they occurred and also after the death of Holmes, that his “voice” should be altered somewhat. Once I made this adjustment  – or at least bought into it – I was able to pay attention to the stories.

This is a collection of stories many Holmes fans will enjoy, while others will find much to dislike, I’m afraid. Thomas gives us (as Publisher’s Weekly pointed out at the time of publication) a Holmes who is smug and self-centered (perhaps he always was, but not so smirking so). The stories wander and wobble a bit, though that may or may not bother the reader; it bothered me less than the “voice” issue mentioned above.

The price of this book seemed prohibitive when new: $40 for this UK hardbound. Copies used and new are less than that today and there may be a paperback edition as well. I’d recommended this for the completist Holmes fan or someone who wants a slightly different Holmes pastiche to fill a few hours. I enjoyed it though am unlikely to re-read it.

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The rest of the Friday Forgotten Book posts this week
are over on In Reference to Murder, B.V. Lawson’s website.

About Rick Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
This entry was posted in Friday Forgotten Book, mystery and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to ffb: The Secret Cases of Sherlock Holmes

  1. Evan Lewis says:

    Read it (thanks to Cap’n Bob, who bequeathed me his review copy). Don’t remember it.

  2. I think I read this one a few years ago and had much the same impression you did.

  3. Jeff Meyerson says:

    I mostly stick to the real thing, with just a few exceptions. This won’t be one of them.

  4. I’m not really a Holmes Completist. I bought a deluxe edition of the orignal Holmes works years ago but still have not read them all.

  5. Richard says:

    Evan, it must not have been particularly memorable.

  6. Richard says:

    Randy, Jeff, Charles, yep. Seems we’re all in accord here. I usually stick with the original too, Jeff, but I’ve read them so many times…

  7. BV Lawson says:

    When looking up Thomas’s works, I was surprised to discover he published five other Holmes pastiches similar to this one, the most recent in March of this year. I gather they’re doing well enough for Pegasus Crime to continue the series.

  8. Richard says:

    BV, his books are considered by many to be among the better Holmes pastiche work, but this one was only a middling attempt, I think.

  9. Kelly says:

    Every time I stray into the pastiches, it just makes me want to read the original stories more.

  10. Richard says:

    Kelly, I know what you mean. I’m the same way. Thing is, I rarely do so, as I always seem to have a bunch of other books in progress.

  11. For want of a new Sherlock Holmes pastiche collection to read, I decided to give this one a try after reading about it in Booklist. The premise sounded interesting; alas, it plays out poorly. Holmes is so far out of character in most of these that it’s not even funny. Yes, these stories are supposed to be other characters’ views of him, but they could have at least retained some spirit of Doyle’s original. Instead many writers take Holmes’ character and run with it. For instance, the story involving Irene Adler’s relationship with Holmes is not only unoriginal but ridiculous. I hope that there will be a new collection of pastiches, one that vastly outweighs this one in the quality department.

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