The Ill Dressed Vagabond (aka Philip K Jones) is one of the world’s leading Sherlock Holmes reviewers. He maintains a huge online database of stories and pastiches. Here he reviews the collection of short fiction from Gerard Kelly – The Outstanding Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes.
“This collection brought back a number of old friends and introduced me to a pair of new acquaintances. Eleven of these tales were published in pamphlet format in 1999. They have not been easy to find and several were later reprinted in a small, single volume collection. In any case, the sequence in which they were presented differs in a few details from the sequence they appear here. I am sure the author took the opportunity to correct any of the trifling errors that may have appeared in the original publications when this new collection was produced. A cursory examination revealed no changes from pamphlet to Trade Paperback, however, I am sure there are some that I simply did not notice.
These stories take place at various times during Holmes’ career and at a number of different locales. Most are well written and seem to echo the Canon, although they are, in general, more ‘emotional’ than the Canonical tales. Also, in common with the Canon, some of these tales are better or, at least, more satisfying than the others. There are a number of interesting characters introduced and several familiar faces grace these pages. Mycroft, Mrs. Hudson and Inspector Lestrade are the most frequently met characters other than Holmes and Watson, but several new faces are quite fascinating. I was particularly taken by the Spanish Ambassador who appears in one of the original tales.
The two new stories are “Catacusis Ebriosus” and “The Peddler of Death.” ‘Catacusis’ was published earlier in “Curious Incidents II,” a collection edited by J. R. Campbell and Charles Prepolac. I do not record an earlier appearance of “The Peddler of Death.” Both are certainly worth including in any collection of Sherlockian fiction.
Most of these stories rate being classed as novellas, as they exceed twenty pages in length. This is, of course, an arbitrary definition, but I have found it useful for describing different sorts of tales. The point is that most of these stories are long enough to allow the author to develop characters and events in some detail. Usually, the short story format forces the author to concentrate on the action involved and has little time for complexities or character traits. In this collection, the author demonstrates that the true monsters in the World are all too human. Nothing is so truly frightening as the ability of humans to terrify and torture one another.
This is a pleasing book, whether the reader is a casual admirer of the Sherlockian Canon or a true aficionado. A few purists may take issue with the timing of several of the tales, but I suspect the author can justify his choices of time and place with little trouble. I am not sure that the occasional use of extra-natural events is truly justified, however, such forays are not germane to the solution of the crimes and only offer some explanation for otherwise unexplained external events”
The Outstanding Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes is available through all leading bookstores worldwide including Amazon, via Amazon Kindle, Kobo Books, and iBooks (iPad and iPhone) and various other formats. If you’d like to stage one of the stories as a play you can get in touch with Gerry through us here.