Review

The Oriental Casebook of Sherlock Holmes

by Ted Riccardi



The first Sherlock Holmes story I ever read was THE ADVENTURE OF
THE SPECKLED BAND. Actually, it was read to me and a class of about
35 other students in Sister Theresa Mary's fifth grade class at St.
Agatha School in Upper Arlington, Ohio. I was hooked; I checked out
of the library a HUGE volume entitled THE SHERLOCK HOLMES OMNIBUS
and read nothing else for weeks. Forty years and some change later,
I still read those stories. And I've always wished there were more.
Many writers have tried to add to the legend and have done yeoman's
work in doing so, but have never really gotten it right. Until
now.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle reportedly hated his creation. Whether that
is ultimately true or not, Conan Doyle sent Holmes and his
archnemesis Moriarity crashing over Reichenbach Falls and that
should have been the end. The public, however, would not stand for
it and after an interval of a few years Holmes was ultimately
brought back. But what was Holmes doing in the intervening time,
when the world at large, including Dr. Watson, thought him to be
dead? THE ORIENTAL CASEBOOK OF SHERLOCK HOLMES provides at least a
partial answer.

There's no way to dance around it: Ted Riccardi's work here is
absolutely brilliant. It is as if he is channeling Conan Doyle, I
swear. Once you're a few pages into "The Case of the Viceroy's
Assistant" or "The Case of Hodgson's Ghost" or "Murder in the
Thieves' Bazaar" you would swear that these were newly discovered
manuscripts, unearthed by Conan Doyle's estate. Or, better yet, I
had the feeling that I had stumbled upon some pulp magazines in an
alternate universe where Conan Doyle was still writing. Riccardi
has it all down --- the cadence, the language, everything. He
doesn't try to subtly update Holmes for the modern audience,
either. It is as if each and every tale in this volume was written
at the turn of the century, and not the 21st.

The stories are loosely connected (as the title of the volume
indicates) by their locale. The premise behind the stories is that
Holmes permitted the world to believe he was dead, the better to
deal with his remaining enemies, of which several are encountered
in this volume. The stories are set in Tibet, Persia, Mecca and
Khartoum, if you will, among other places. Holmes more often than
not in these tales functions as a clandestine agent of the British
government, but ultimately his skills at detection, as opposed to
espionage, are brought to bear. Riccardi brings not only Holmes but
also these exotic locales to life, filling in little details, so
that when he talks about heat you sweat and when he talks about
bugs you feel them crawl. Oh, and how could I forget? There is a
story herein entitled "The Giant Rat of Sumatra" --- a tale for
which the world is, at last, prepared. It is more reminiscent of
Robert E. Howard or H.P. Lovecraft than Conan Doyle, but it is
still worth the wait.

In his Afterword, Riccardi attributes to Conan Doyle's authorship
the stories contained in THE ORIENTAL CASEBOOK OF SHERLOCK HOLMES.
He also hints that some fifty-odd unpublished stories fell into his
possession and that the nine contained in this volume are only the
first of those to be published. I, for one, will be waiting for
more. And as with "The Giant Rat of Sumatra," it will be worth the
wait.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011

The Oriental Casebook of Sherlock Holmes
by Ted Riccardi

  • Publication Date: September 2, 2003
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Random House
  • ISBN-10: 1400060656
  • ISBN-13: 9781400060658