Tuesday, September 16, 2014
SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE GHOSTS OF BLY by Donald Thomas
Three stories are contained therein. The first is "The Case of a Boy's Honour" in which Holmes is summoned by the real-life Sir John Fisher, a noted admiral, to investigate an accused theft by a schoolboy at a naval-oriented school. The mystery itself is rather low-stakes, but it involves a good middle-class student with a bright future being besmirched by spoiled, privileged upper-class students. It's nicely resolved by a bit of bluffing, but is diverting enough.
The second is the longest, and qualifies as a novella. "The Case of the Ghosts of Bly" plunks Holmes down into Henry James' "The Turn of the Screw." Holmes comes on the case after the end of the James tale, with the governess (now named Victoria Temple) imprisoned in Broadmoor, and questions being raised about the deaths of both Miles and Flora (!). This is a decent job of turning James' supernatural narrative into a tale of crime and conspiracy. The spectral appearances are given a good explanation, and there's even an explanation of the "things" that Miles said at school that got him expelled. This is one of the better examples of shoehorning Holmes into an established story and having him resolve it.
The third, "The Case of the Matinee Idol," was a bit annoying as it rewrites some of Holmes' character. It's preceded by an essay called "Sherlock Holmes the Actor" which now adds some time on the stage to Holmes' resume; while it makes a certain sense, with Holmes adding to his disguise abilities, it's never referred to anywhere else. And in the story, with Holmes and Watson investigating the poisoning of a popular actor while performing in "Hamlet" on New Year's Eve, Holmes openly refers to having played Hamlet in the past, which is rather jarring.
On the whole, it's irregular pastiche, with the best part being "The Ghosts of Bly." The first story is slightly marred by a judgmental tone toward the school establishment of the time that takes one out of it, and the third so suddenly presents us with Holmes as a former actor that it's hard to get wrapped up in. It feels like a pastiche written by someone who only knew vaguely of the Holmes canon.
It was still entertaining enough, and I may check out the others by this author.