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The famous tin box in the attic of the house on Baker Street is again unlocked in this new collection of tales contrived by the ingenious Donald Thomas. As in Thomas’s successful previous collection, The Secret Cases of Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson presents six cases of real-life crime that he has uncovered in the unpublished papers of the world’s most celebrated detective. Crossing historical fact with inventive fiction, Thomas introduces Holmes in these stories to such controversial clients as Oscar Wilde and Dr. Crippen. Holmes also meets and is himself arrested by his future ally, Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard. In these tales, a grim discovery lies behind the scandal of naked bicyclists in rural Essex; the deceptions of a military swindler lead to the execution shed; a young woman goes missing with a minor criminal, whom only Holmes believes to be the most dangerous psychopath of modern times; and a “Talking Corpse” unveils horror in the Lambeth slums. In all, the Great Detective appears at his most determinedly deductive and downright devious. “It is all Holmes, sweet Holmes for the premier sleuth’s many fans.”—Booklist
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A dramatic improvement over British author Thomas's first collection of Holmes pastiches, The Secret Cases of Sherlock Holmes (1998), this second story compendium continues to feature the great detective investigating true-life crimes. Most of these will be obscure to American readers, except for a couple of abortive cases involving Oscar Wilde and the notorious Dr. Crippen, who appear briefly in the volume's weakest offering, "The Two `Failures' of Sherlock Holmes." Since The Secret Cases, the author has gained a mastery of Watson's narrative voice, while his excellent recreation of the verbal give-and-take between Holmes and Watson helps render their long friendship plausible. Holmes makes brilliant deductions and engages in a number of cunning ruses to flush out his quarry. Thomas leavens the overall seriousness of these problems with an element of playfulness often overlooked by other Doyle imitators. "The Case of the Naked Bicyclists" and the title story are especially fine, with creepy atmospherics and unpredictable plot twists. In the latter, Watson witnesses the agonizing effect of poison on a prostitute. Deeply affected by the tragedy, the good doctor becomes an active participant in an inquiry into several more deaths and a blackmailer's bizarre efforts to pin them on prominent Londoners. The fidelity with which Thomas portrays two of literature's most beloved characters puts him among the leaders in the crowded Holmes pastiche field.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.From Booklist:
Thomas offers six more stories from the tin box that contained The Secret Cases of Sherlock Holmes (1998). Like their predecessors, the six reveal Holmes' work on some of the true-crime cases that captivated late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century England. Freely mingling historical fact and creative fiction, Thomas has Holmes and Watson investigating the outrageous debauchery of the naked bicyclists of rural Essex, which led to a young woman's disappearance; the sporting major accused of killing a student during an ill-fated hunting trip; and a voice from beyond the grave in the wonderfully named title story. Nothing, it seems, is too challenging for Holmes' deductive powers, and a large part of the reader's fun comes from watching poor Watson's attempts to figure out, let alone keep pace with, the course of Holmes' inquiry. Sherlockians old and new should relish the wit and elegance of Thomas' contrivances. Whitney Scott
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