Associates Of Sherlock Holmes – Edited By George Mann (Titan Books)

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It’s always a pleasure to take a stroll through the Sherlock Holmes universe, especially when it’s an expanded variety, as here. For as the title implies, the thirteen tales herein are not Holmes adventures per se; rather the experiences of minor or supporting characters from the Conan Doyle canon. Lestrade is here, as is Irene Adler, and Sebastian Moran, but also the greenhorn police inspector Stanley Hopkins, gossip columnist Langdale Pike, rival detective Clarence Barker, Billy The Page, and more. It’s a thoroughly entertaining concoction that delivers quality throughout, though, like me, I suspect you’ll favour certain styles and stories above others. It’s true also that sometimes the great detective’s ‘guest appearances’, especially in terms of dialogue, can feel a bit off. Story wise, James Lovegrove’s Pure Swank didn’t quite hit the mark, to my mind, while Cavan Scott’s Nor Hell A Fury seemed a prime example of a last line writ first. Andrew Lane’s The Case Of The Haphazard Marksman, however, was made for me by the fact Lane confesses in his introduction that he’d pictured Peter Wyngarde in the course of writing. It is impossible not to see him. The gold badge must, however, go to Lyndsay Faye, in whose Stanley Hopkins adventure, The River Of Silence, the young inspector’s first meeting with Holmes and Watson is imbued with a perfectly-pitched sense of awe and nervousness befitting these legendary characters. As this is the first story in the collection, it serves as an excellent reminder of what it’s all about – people who are inextricably caught in the orbit of another yet have flesh-and-blood lives of their own. This is a wonderful insight into them. Recommended.    Mike Wild

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