The Whole Art of Detection: Lost Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes
Lyndsay Faye began her love of Sherlock Holmes stories when she was 10 years old. As she grew older, she gravitated back to the fictional character created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Like many other “Sherlockians,” Faye recognized that the iconic characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson were incomparable, and the many thousands of homages or inspired stories featuring them are all worthy of a good read.
The release of Faye's collection of Sherlock Holmes short stories, THE WHOLE ART OF DETECTION, could not have come out at a better time. Quite frankly, the public cannot seem to get enough Holmes. BBC America and PBS air the incredible series “Sherlock” with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, while in the US you can catch the reimagined American Holmes series, “Elementary.” Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law portrayed Holmes and Watson on the big screen in two hit films with rumors of more to come. Hiding in plain sight for many years as a Holmes-inspired series was the classic “House,” which starred Hugh Laurie as the Holmes character and his hospital colleague, Dr. Wilson. I myself am a card-carrying Sherlockian, having portrayed Holmes half a dozen times on stage as well as penning an award-winning short play featuring Holmes and his archrival, Moriarty.
Faye has done her part to keep the Holmes legend alive. Her first novel, DUST AND SHADOW, pitted Holmes against the infamous Jack the Ripper. She loves and has obvious respect for classic literature, as she is coming off her hit book from 2016, JANE STEELE, which was inspired by Jane Austen. Now we turn to Faye’s terrific collection of short stories, which is dedicated to her late Uncle Michael, who gifted her with a copy of THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES.
"The feat that Lyndsay Faye has pulled off with THE WHOLE ART OF DETECTION is nothing short of amazing. The stories flow nicely into each other, and all leave you wanting more."
Faye breaks up the tales by segments, with the first story, "The Case of Colonel Warburton's Madness,” under the “Before Baker Street” section. This is not a childhood tale like the terrific Steven Spielberg-produced film Young Sherlock Holmes, but it does feature a younger version of Doyle's literary figures set before they had moved into 221B Baker Street.
There are moments and highlights throughout this collection that I would like to focus on. In "The Adventure of the Vintner's Codex," our humble narrator, Dr. Watson, gushes at how he thrills at the mere thought of Holmes' lost tales. Since Watson is the narrator of all these stories, we have the opportunity to get his direct thoughts and point of view on Holmes the whole time. In "The Adventure of the Honest Wife," Watson notes that Holmes has an open aversion to the entire female gender, swearing that no woman is to be completely trusted. Faye hits these notes perfectly as the question of Holmes' relationship with women has long been a point of debate.
The short story "Memoranda Upon the Gaskell Blackmailing Dilemma" actually touches upon perhaps the most popular Holmes tale, THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES. Readers will recognize that Holmes actually disappears for a good portion of the story, and Faye takes the opportunity to shine a light on what he may have been involved with while Watson was left to attend to Sir Henry Baskerville. "The Lowther Park Mystery" introduces Holmes' heralded politician brother, Mycroft, and at the same time finds them all sucked into an uncovered plot against the British government.
Many of the stories refer to The Strand, which ironically was the literary magazine in which Watson published most of his Holmes tales. The modern-day Strand is also where Faye originally published many of the stories in this collection. "The Adventure of the Willow Basket" gets somewhat grisly as Inspector Lestrade summons Holmes and Watson to assist in a case involving a corpse that appears to be emptied of all blood. Holmes typically scoffed at any supernatural reason for something that was initially unexplainable, but that approach will be taxed in this dark tale.
Part IV of this collection is entitled “The Later Years”; think more Jeremy Brett and less Benedict Cumberbatch. "The Adventure of the Thames Tunnel" pits Holmes and Watson against one of their toughest adversaries --- the criminal network known simply as the Iron Hand. This group has a nameless, faceless leader that Holmes is intent on exposing and finally thwarting.
The feat that Lyndsay Faye has pulled off with THE WHOLE ART OF DETECTION is nothing short of amazing. The stories flow nicely into each other, and all leave you wanting more. It's not so much that she’s paying tribute to Sherlock Holmes, but more like she’s directly channeling the spirit of the late, great Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The game's afoot!
Reviewed by Ray Palen on March 10, 2017