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The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes…

The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (edition 2009)

by John Joseph Adams

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427924,721 (3.71)15
Title:The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Authors:John Joseph Adams
Info:Night Shade Books (2009), Edition: 1ST, Paperback, 350 pages
Collections:Read in 2012 (inactive), Your library

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The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by John Joseph Adams (Editor)



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This huge anthology mixes tales of traditional mystery with tales that introduce elements of sci fi and fantasy. While a couple of the tales are honest attempts at pastiche, most of these pick up Arthur Conan Doyle’s (ACD’s) characters and use them in ways he surely never envisioned – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but which Holmes fans may find off-putting. For their benefit, I’m including here a brief summary of each story, to enable them to decide for themselves whether this is worthwhile. As it happens, there’s no need to worry about spoilers because the intro to each story takes care of that; I think the editor was worried that the stories wouldn’t be appreciated without context, but his intros do tend to spoil any surprises to come.

1. Stephen King's The Doctor's Case (mystery), in which Watson beats Holmes to the solution, is probably the most authentic tale in the story, offering a novel solution to the venerable "locked room" conundrum.

2. Lebbon's The Horror of the Many Faces (fantasy/horror/sci-fi) presents us with Holmes the murderer. An intriguing premise, but the vague denoument fails to deliver on the tale's promise.

3. Anne Perry's The Case of The Bloodless Sock (mystery) features Moriarty becoming personally involved in the kidnapping of a young girl. The denoument is clever enough, but purists will find this story irksome, as Moriarty committing his own crimes is as antithetical to the canon as Mycroft running a marathon.

4. Sinor's The Adventure of the Other Detective (fantasy) is an alternative universe tale in which everyone in the canon swaps roles and Jack the Ripper is revealled to be ***. Not a bad tale, though one could wish Sinor had given the characters a more mysterious mystery to solve.

5. Hoch's A Scandal in Montreal (mystery) gives us Holmes traveling to Canada at Irene Adler's request to help extract her son from peril. Sadly, this Irene channels little of her former spunk and the denoument relies on a rather cheesy "5 Minute Mystery"-type clue. Disappointing on multiple levels.

6. McIntyre's The Adventure of the Field Theorem (mystery) presents us with ACD himself calling in Holmes to investigate local crop circles. A rather charming little story that plays on ACD's notorious gullibility with respect to supernatural entities.

7. In Schweitzer's The Adventure of the Death-Fetch (horror/fantasy), a man fears that past wrong-doings have returned to destroy him. Call me a purist, but I can't help considering stories that rely on supernatural explanations to be cop-outs. Kind of like the Scooby Gang finding out the that Green Ghost really was a ghost.

8. In Kowal's The Shocking Affair of the Dutch Steamship Friesland (mystery), a member of the Italian government is assassinated by ingenious means aboard a steamship. Loved the ingenious means, hated the rushed, cluttered storytelling

9. Jeffers' The Adventure of the Mummy's Curse (mystery) - need I say more? Not a bad tale, but I can't help considering it "cheating" when the author doesn't give you all the info you need to solve the case.

10. In Roden's The Things That Shall Come Upon Them (mystery, fantasy/horror), Holmes works in tandem with a "detective of the supernatural" to determine the root cause of strange happenings at a haunted house. Rather enjoyed this one.

11. In Anthony Burgess's Murder to Music (mystery), music serves as the clue that reveals the murderer. Again, however, Burgess cheats a little by not revealing key info, and some of Holmes' deductions are based more on luck than evidence. Still, Anthony Burgess!

12. In Baxter's The Adventure of the Inertial Adjustor (mystery), the inventor of a mechanism that can supposedly "suspend gravity" is found dead. Love that science provides the critical clue in this one.

13. Laurie King's Mrs. Hudson's Case (mystery) gives us Mrs. Hudson solving not one but two mysteries, bringing to the business an empathy that her more famous employer is known to lack. Highly satisfying tale.

14. Landis' The Singular Habits of Wasps (mystery, horror), yet another re-examination the Jack the Ripper case, delivers a wholly unexpected and imaginative twist to the old tale.

15. Myers' The Affair of the 46th Birthday (mystery), in which Holmes solves the murder of an Italian secretary, depends on the possession of several bits of obscure historical trivia for its revelation.

16. Peter Tremayne's The Specter of Tullyfane Abbey (mystery) presents us with a young Sherlock Holmes, on break from university, presented with a mysterious disappearance to solve. Between trying to fill in details about Holmes' family, supplying him with a love interest, and dragging in Moriarty, Tremayne's juggling a lot of balls in this one, but it (mostly) works.

17. Sharyn McCrumb's The Vale of the White Horse (mystery) sets Holmes to solving the murder of a peer at Uffington's legendary White Horse. However, her interjection of a folklore-spouting wise-woman as the tale's narrator feels forced and doesn't quite work.

18. Michael Moorcock's The Adventure of the Dorset Street Lodger (mystery) is one of the few tales in which the author's narrative style distracts from the tale. Moreover, the convoluted plot involving a naïve Texan, a Fellini statue, and an old man in the care of a mysterious nurse comes off as preposterous rather than clever.

19. Green's The Adventure of the Lost World (mystery, fantasy) is a tongue-in-cheek ode to ACD’s only slightly lesser known claim to fame, Voyage to the Center of the Earth. The plot is entirely ridiculous, even within the forgiving constraints of fantasy, and yet, somehow, it works.

20. Hambly’s The Adventure of the Antiquarian’s Niece (fantasy) features a cameo by Cthulhu and references to other works of pulp horror from the Lovecraft era. Some technical writing issues (I swear parts of this are told in “first person omniscient,” which I don’t think is a real thing), but not a bad Lovecraftian tale … that just happens to include Holmes and Watson ....

21. Yet another celebrity cameo in Pi’s Dynamics of a Hanging (mystery), this time Charles Dodgson aka Lewis Carroll in a tale that features Moriarty murdering his old college pal ACD. Caroll, a rather brilliant mathematician when he wasn’t writing Alice in Wonderland, is brought in to decode Moriarty’s journals.

22. Roberson’s Merridew of Abominable Memory (mystery) elaborates on one of the many cryptic references to cases with which Watson was wont to pepper the introduction to his tales. The tale’s unnecessary subplot doesn’t distract from a chilling and memorable denouement.

23. Naomi Novik’s Commonplaces (romance?) is a thankfully brief tale that feels more like something you’d find on a fan fiction site than in an anthology. Why must authors insist on burdening poor Holmes with a love interest, male and/or female?

24. Rogers’ The Adventure of the Pirates of Devil’s Cape (mystery) achieves preposterous without resorting to fantasy/scifi elements, but in an over-the-top pulpy way that is hard to hate. Seriously, a Marie Celeste-type maritime mystery, sharp-shooting Siamese twins, and Holmes crossing swords with a pirate king - all in one short story?

25. Valentine’s The Adventure of the Green Skull (mystery) starts off sounding like something out of Scooby Doo, but the resolution is refreshingly creative, and served with a tasty side of historical context.

26. Tanith Lee’s The Human Mystery (mystery) offers more red herrings than a Russian fishing trawler on its way to an ending that is perhaps a little more Freudian than Holmsian. Not terribly bad, but not terribly clever either.

27. Neil Gaiman’s Study in Emerald (mystery, scifi/fantasy) is fittingly saved for last, as it combines elements of mystery, scifi and fantasy. The tale deliberately references ACD’s “A Study in Scarlet” and transforms the essential elements of this foundational Holmes tale in ways that I think even ACD might have enjoyed.

28. And then there’s Sawyer’s You See But You Do Not Observe (philosophy?), in which the Great Detective endeavors to solve the great Fermi’s Paradox. If you’ve heard the old chestnut about the philosopher who committed suicide by convincing himself he didn’t exist, you’ve got an idea of how this one ends. ( )
1 vote Dorritt | Aug 18, 2015 |
This collection of short stories suffers from the same issue that most do, which is that the qualities and tones of the stories vary so dramatically that the experience is uneven. If you've read all of Conan Doyle's books and want more Sherlock, this isn't a bad way to get it.

I like that the volume mixes stories of historically-accurate events with stories where magic and Science-Fiction elements spice up the goings-on, but I strongly dislike that the introductions to each story completely spoil what would otherwise be pleasant surprises.

If you're only reading a couple of them, my favorites were:

A Study in Emerald by Neil Gaiman

The Adventure of the Antiquarian's Niece by Barbara Hambly

Commonplaces by Naomi Novik

You See But You Do Not Observe by Robert J. Sawyer ( )
  wishanem | Jan 27, 2015 |
some were very entertaining, some were a bit of a trial. The preponderance of fic with Cthulhu references cracked me up, but those were also some of the best in the volume. I was a little surprised that only Naomi Novik got Holmes laid -- and it was so gently and appropriately done, too. *fond*

It's interesting that proportionately more of the ten stories by female authors stood out to me (in a good way) than those of the eighteen men. Interesting thing to look at for someone doing focused gender studies on women in scifi/fantasy. I wonder if I'm trained to respond better to women writers or if those stories were objectively better? Yeah, that's essentially a moot point, I know, but as few women as there are in the genre, it's nice to see the representation. (rant about the relative lack of female characters in the stories written by men redacted because it is a tired old argument and it just makes me sad.)

This book took an unconscionably long time for me to finish. It was bedtime reading and actively put me to sleep when nothing else would -- except when the stories really hooked me. I don't really know what's up with that. Usually I'm a lot faster at finishing things. ( )
  sageness | Feb 7, 2014 |
The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by John Joseph Adams edited by John Joseph Adams is a collection of short stories featuring Sherlock Holmes written by contemporary authors such as Neil Gaiman, Laurie R. King, Michael Moorcock. Roughly half of the stories assume a supernatural solution to the mystery, whilst the others find a mundane solution.

These stories were written anywhere from 20 years ago until the year the collection was published. The collection starts off with a story that brought to mind the 1999 movie, Mimic. Laurie King's story, meanwhile, fills in some gaps in her debut Sherlock Holmes book, The Beekeeper's Apprentice. Another story asks the question — what if Moriarty and Sherlock's roles were reversed?

For the audio book, two narrators were brought on board: Simon Vance for the stories where most of the characters are male, and Anne Flosnik for the ones where the main character was female (Mary Russell, for instance). I wish they had just let Vance do all the stories.

By the time the first of Flosnik's pieces comes around, I had grown accustomed to Vance's style and cadence. Flosnik, for reasons unknown to me, tries to give her women regional accents. None of them work, though, and all of her characters end up sounding like Zecora from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. With the exception of Laurie King's story, I ended up skipping most of Flosnik's narrated stories because her performance was got in the way. ( )
  pussreboots | Apr 20, 2013 |
This collection contains a bit of everything but all of it Sherlock Holmes. I've read a few of the stories already but most were new to me. I was unhappy with a few that changed Holmes a bit too dramatically, especially Naomi Novik's interpretation, but on the whole they did a great job.

A must read for any Sherlock fan ( )
  Shirezu | Mar 31, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Adams, John JosephEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Baxter, StephenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Burgess, AnthonyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gaiman, NeilContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Green, DominicContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hambly, BarbaraContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hoch, EdwardContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jeffers, H. PaulContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
King, Laurie R.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
King, StephenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kowal, Mary RobinetteContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Landis, GeoffreyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lebbon, TimContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lee, TanithContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
McCrumb, SharynContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
McIntyre, Vonda N.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Moorcock, MichaelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Myers, AmyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Novik, NaomiContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Perry, AnneContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pi, TonyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Roberson, ChrisContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Roden, BarbaraContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rogers, RobContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sawyer, Robert J.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Schweitzer, DarrellContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sinor, Bradley H.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Tremayne, PeterContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Valentine, MarkContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Features short stories about Sherlock Holmes and Watson solving mysteries where a particular piece has been changed, which alters the course of the story and conclusion.

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