“In October 2008, after reading the works of Marcia Wilson on a fan fiction website, I was moved to write a fan letter. I’ve been reading and collecting thousands of Sherlock Holmes stories since the mid-1970’s, and I had never read anything like what she was writing. They were stories of the Scotland Yarders, the ones that we knew from the Holmes stories. Lestrade, Gregson, Bradstreet, Hopkins, Jones, Youghal, and others. They weren’t clichéd bumblers that so often appear in pastiches, but rather knowledgeable officers who were serious about their very difficult jobs. They didn’t resent Holmes, although they did realize that his responsibilities were upon different lines. They were the professionals, and he was the gifted amateur. And that wasn’t a problem, because they respected each other, and even had a sort of friendship.
More importantly, Watson – as presented in these stories – was not a Nigel Bruce-like “Uncle John” bumbler or figure for comedy. Rather, he is a gifted and intelligent doctor and former military officer who has earned the regard of all the Yarders. The Watson shown here is a very deep individual who hides his own light under a bushel but never fails to be a hero as well.
The main figure of these tales is Inspector G. Lestrade. Wilson chose the name “Geoffrey” for him, not because she liked that name, but because she didn’t, thereby causing her to work harder to understand him and present him favorably. And once these stories are encountered, the reader will like him too, and never see him the same way again.
In these stories, the lives and backstories of the men of Scotland Yard are revealed, presented in a very authentic manner that shows Wilson’s amazing knowledge of the period. She never tosses in facts in an awkward manner to remind you that these stories are taking place in the late 19th century. Rather, the characters simply accept these facts in passing as part of the world around them, giving great credence to the stories’ authenticity.
Over the course of a number of years, Wilson constructed a vast web of interrelated stories and adventures, all mounted on the solid framework of the Canon. In my first fan letter to her, I begged her to publish them for the wider world, and I’m so happy that she’s doing so. There was You Buy Bones, telling of Lestrade’s first meeting with Watson, who will become a close friend, and Watson’s service to the Yard that earns their admiration forever after. Next chronologically is this book, which tells how Lestrade meets Clea Cheatham, as well as becoming reacquainted with an old enemy, Jethro Quimper, who is now working for a certain Professor.
For those of us in the know, the anticipation is almost unbearable, waiting for the next volumes to appear. I know what happens next from reading and archiving all of those old fan fiction stories – much that we didn’t previously know is going to happen to Lestrade, Watson, Holmes, and the rest as we progress through the 1880’s and so into the 1890’s, and the years before, during, and after The Great Hiatus. But Wilson didn’t stop there – she’s chronicled adventures through World War I and beyond. She still has places to fill in details, and I can’t wait to see what happens next – and for other readers to find it out as well.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll conclude by saying it again: Marcia Wilson has found Scotland Yard’s Tin Dispatch Box!”
Reviewed by David Marcum
Test of the Professionals I is available from all good bookstores including The Strand Magazine, Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Waterstones UK and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Kindle and Kobo.