The private investigator with the longest tenure in literacy and media is none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. Partnering with his (only) friend, Dr. John Watson, Holmes has recently been portrayed by Robert Downey, Jr. (“Iron Man”) on the big screen. The BBC is shooting the third season of “Sherlock” with Benedict Cumberbatch (“Star Trek Into Darkness”) as Holmes. CBS Network introduced a take on Holmes with Johnny Lee Miller (“Dexter”) in the lead role. Add this to decades of films starring the likes of Basil Rathbone, and radio dramas featuring any number of actors, and Holmes’ resume’ is quite respectable.
The British sleuth first appeared in publication in 1887, in Doyle’s novel, “A Study in Scarlet”. He appeared in novels and dozens of short stories, most narrated by Watson. Author William Meikle sticks to Doyle’s format in his short stories featuring Holmes and Watson. In 2013, Dark Renaissance Books compiled a number of Meikle’s stories into the anthology, “The Quality of Mercy and Other Stories.”
Scottish-born Meikle writes Holmes and Watson with a great deal of familiarity and comfort, though the situations in which they find themselves vary greatly from earlier works. Many of the stories feature the occult and the supernatural, and can’t be explained away with scientific method or brilliant deduction.
“The Quality of Mercy” opens the anthology, and, unlike most Holmes stories, is not narrated by Watson, but rather Captain McKay, a war compatriot of Watson who is being haunted by the vision of his deceased wife.
“The Case of the Walrus Tusk” follows Holmes and Watson as they investigate a bizarre series of thefts aboard the HMS Intrepid. Items with little monetary value are going missing, and the only eyewitness claims that it’s the work of a mysterious dwarf in the pantry.
“The Color That Came to Chiswick” ventures into gore as much as mystery, as a strange slime has been discovered in one of London’s largest ale houses. Is the substance a tool for sabotage or something far more sinister?
“The Call of the Dance” is told brilliantly, with Holmes investigating the late night laboratory of a man attempting to communicate wirelessly across the Atlantic using a new, wireless technology. Their transmission has stirred something superhuman, and the famous sleuth may be the only one resourceful enough to stop it.
“The Case of the Highland Fiddle” begins with housekeeper Mrs. Hudson providing an aged violin to Holmes for his birthday. Holmes is elated and plays the fiddle most of the day. Watson wakes in the middle of the night to a sad song being played on the violin. The next day, Holmes reveals that he wasn’t playing the violin. The pair discover a cryptic invitation inside the violin case, and begin their investigation into the instrument’s strange background.
“The Case of the Lost Overcoat” is a short story wherein Watson purchases a wool coat from a street urchin. Upon donning the coat, he loses hours to a blackout, and finds himself in a strange bar with blood on the coat and bruises on his knuckles. It’s up to Holmes to help Watson piece together his missing time and to discover the secret workings of the black coat.
“The Case of the Tibetan Rug” allows Watson a bit of romance as he and Holmes take the case of a beautiful, young woman named Constance McGregor. She believes that she is being haunted by a strange figure every night in her room. Holmes soon uncovers ties between the spiritual stalker and an ornate rug she brought back from Tibet.
“The Yellow Peril” opens as Holmes and Watson are summoned by the sleuth’s government agent brother, Mycroft. Following the events of the Chiswick case, experiments have begun in the name of the country’s defense, and one of these experiments has gone horribly wrong. Holmes must identify a dying man with amnesia, and enter a den of smugglers, in order to crack the case.
“The Curse of the Jade Pendant”
Meikle writes Holmes and Watson with a warm friendship. Their interaction is reminiscent of the radio series featuring Rathbone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as the story-telling Watson. The collection is a quick read, with plenty of twists and turns in each of the cases. Fans of Holmes in any medium will enjoy this anthology.