Liese Sherwood-Fabre, The Adventure of the Deceased Scholar (2021)

Author: Liese Sherwood-Fabre

Title: The Adventure of the Deceased Scholar

Format: e-book

Pages: 314

Series: The Early Case Files of Sherlock Holmes #3

I confess I have a soft spot for almost everything Sherlockian. Or Holmesian? 😉 Obviously, Doyle’s original work is in my book incomparable to anything written later on that topic in tribute/pastiche/inspiration/parody/retelling (oh, retelling, gah!) etc. – but I still quite enjoy a new spin on the unique character of Sherlock Holmes and his unsurpassed powers of deduction. And there’s a LOT to pick from, believe me. Some of them are even endorsed by Doyle’s estate, some become a matter for loud lawsuits, and there are even Sherlockian scholars sacrificing most of the waking hours of their life to Doyle’s creation. I don’t pretend to be a Sherlockian pro, far from it. But I’ve read my share of Sherlock Holmes pastiches, and among them two managed to get reviews on this blog. Gaiman’s and Albuquerque’s A Study in Emerald turned out to be a delightful romp through Lovecraftian-inspired Victorian London, and Lovegrove’s version of the Christmas adventure of Holmes and Watson was warm and cozy and very much in the Holmesian spirit. Sherwood-Fabre offers something slightly different: adventures of a teenage Sherlock Holmes, at 14 still quite impressionable and surrounded by a loving family. 

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Marie Brennan, A Natural History of Dragons (2013)

A Natural History of Dragons

Author: Marie Brennan

Title: A Natural History of Dragons

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 335

Series: Memoirs of Lady Trent, 1

An American folklorist and anthropologist turned writer, Marie Brennan aka Bryn Neuenschwander is an author known to many in the blogosphere for her entertaining and quite educational – if in the tongue in cheek style – series titled Memoirs of Lady Trent. For example, you can read the enthusiastic review by Bookforager here 🙂 Written from a first person perspective it grants us a rather unique narrative; for Lady Trent is an elderly and eccentric personage, whose old age coupled with enormous experience, accomplishments in the field of natural science, considerable wealth and status as well as an aristocratic background, free her entirely from fears of the sanctimonious outrage and possible sanctions of her society. This perspective lends the novels an air of unforced entertainment; a light, gossipy feel to what otherwise might have been a bit too heavy imitation of travel chronicles and taxonomy efforts of the nineteenth century naturalists and anthropologists. But most importantly – and incidentally it is where Brennan truly excels – the series is in essence a long, superbly meandering and convoluted love letter to dragons, envisioned as a family of species not unlike dolphins or apes: possessed of intelligence and – possibly – sentience, with their own rituals and traditions, and what at a first glance resembles the beginnings of a culture.

How it will all pan out, I don’t rightly know – yet, I might add – as I’ve only read two books so far. But I can already say with certainty that Brennan’s treatment of dragons, while fully indebted to Darwin, owes an equally great deal to Jane Goodall. The overwhelming sense of kinship with a family of species so different to ours is something I truly treasure here, particularly because Isabella Trent’s feisty and inquisitive nature easily lends herself to seeing the world around as a whole, all life irrevocably intertwined and interdependent.

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Neil Gaiman, Rafael Albuquerque, A Study in Emerald (2018)

A Study in Emerald

Author: Neil Gaiman, Rafael Albuquerque

Title: A Study in Emerald

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 88

Right in time for October spookiness, Gaiman’s cheeky and heartfelt tribute to both Arthur Conan Doyle and H.P. Lovecraft is a lovingly crafted mystery clad in horror. Gaiman’s short story won 2004 Hugo Award for Best Short Story and the 2005 Locus Award for Best Novelette, and had been adapted to the comic book medium by Rafael Albuquerque, Rafael Scavone,  and Dave Stewart over a decade later.

I must admit I did read the short story back in the time, but the comic book adaptation somehow made a much greater impression on me. Maybe it’s the Lovecraftian vibes, which so greatly lend themselves to the dark, shadowy frames filled with menacing tentacles and splotches of vivid green, or maybe it’s the structure of the story, beautifully misleading the readers, throwing red (or rather emerald) herrings left and right, only to reveal its true nature to the careful reader (and indeed, half the pleasure from reading Gaiman’s take on the world’s best detective stems from knowing all necessary facts about Sherlock Holmes ;))

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