The Whole Art of Detection: Lost Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes
by Lyndsay Faye
Review by Gayle Surrette
Mysterious Press Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780802125927
Date: 07 March 2017 List Price $25.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Lyndsay Faye in The Whole Art of Detection managed to make me forget at times that I was reading stories written by a current author using the characters developed by Sir Conan Doyle. The word choices, atmosphere, phrasing, and personal interactions were such to set the mood of the original tales.
The book is a set of short stories organized according to when they occurred, so the book is divided into four sections: Before Baker Street, The Early Years, The Return to an Empty House, and The Later Years. I found all the stories to be interesting and often the movement between one story and the next was so smooth that it was hard to remember that one had ended and the next began.
In the Before Baker Street section, Dr. Watson is in San Francisco when he stumbles into a strange case he refers to as "The Case of Colonel Warburton's Madness" as he relates it to Holmes. Watson did his best to protect Col. Warburton but Holmes was able, from Watson's relating the details, to fill in some of the details that had been bothering Watson. The story sets up Watson as competent and a careful observer of his environment. Maybe not up to Holmes' standards but he's no slouch either.
The story I enjoyed most in The Early Years section was "Adventure of the Beggar's Feast". In the course of investigating why a patient brought to the surgery where Watson volunteered was not wearing his own clothes, Watson and Holmes learn about the workings of the annual Beggar's Feast. This particular story did much to show Holmes' concern and care of his Baker Street Irregulars without changing his basic character at all.
The Return to an Empty House section features stories that detail the depths of Watson's depression and efforts to keep himself active after the death of his wife, Mary, and the loss of Holmes at Reichenbach Falls. Then there are stories after Holmes' returns where Watson takes a more active part as Holmes has been gone long enough to no longer be aware of all the changes that have occurred in the city he once knew like the back of his hand. "Adventure of the Memento Mori" is key to the change in their relationship as Watson holds the key that gets them to the woman who has begged for help to save her life in time to be of use to her. This was also a very dark story that indicates how very tenuous the lives of women who don't fit into society can be.
"Adventure of the Lightless Maiden", in The Later Years section, has Holmes and Watson saving a young woman from her own naivety. She'd asked for their help by lending their support of her boyfriend's work. Things don't turn out the way she wished but they do turn out the way that is best suited to help her.
Each story is, as the reader would suspect, filled with details that lead to the appropriate solution to the problem. There is misdirection and obscure knowledge needed in many cases, but that has always been a crucial element of all the Holmes and Watson stories. Faye doesn't stint on making the central mystery of each story rich in clues and satisfying in their solutions. This is definitely a collection worth reading.