Much as I enjoy the tales of the Baker Street sleuth, Iíve always had to admit that the short stories work better than the novels. The Sherlock Holmes novels often seemed to become an excuse for Conan Doyle to bookend the adventure with Holmes and Watson while spending the bulk of the middle of the book telling the background story which led up to the puzzle they are solving.
Conan Doyle was better at the little puzzles, better at carrying us along and making us forget that a good deal of this stuff didnít make sense, better at pairing his two main characters and having them react to situations and to each other, than he was at extended narratives in this genre. The short stories have a snap to them that takes you from one to the next like eating peanuts.
So it is with the pastiches, the homages which have covered more bookshelf space than Sir Arthur himself did. Some of the novels work; some donít. Those that do often abandon the format of the originals in order to tell a more modern story.
The short story collections donít have to do that. In this case Greenberg, the master anthologist, has pulled together twelve tales by reputed masters of the mystery form, including Canadians Howard Engel and L.B. Greenwood, both of whom have tackled the problem successfully at novel length, giving us a book of adventures that I nursed through several lazy Sunday afternoons.
In addition to new work by Stuart Kaminsky (the Toby Peters series) and Anne Perry (the Thomas Pitt series) and noted Edgar Award winner Edward D. Hoch, there is an essay about Holmes by Conan Doyle himself, and a retrospective essays by Lloyd Rose and editor Lellenberg.
It has now been 120 years since the first novel, A Study in Scarlet, appeared in 1886. It took another 5 years before Conan Doyle figured out how best to show off his detective in that first short story, ďA Scandal in BohemiaĒ. So far there is no end of his adventures in sight.