A little mystery for your holiday season?
Otto Penzler’s latest edited anthology for Black Lizard and Vintage Crime is a treat for Sherlockians. Just in time for Christmas — and the long-awaited Christmas special, if you’re a fan of the BBC Sherlock reboot series — is a doorstop of a Holmes anthology, The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories, featuring everything from parody to the supernatural to straight-up homage.
Penzler may be familiar to readers from his many previous publications, including The Vampire Archive (2009) and The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps (2007). Much as in his previous collections, the editor has gathered a wide range of Holmes and Holmes-inspired stories from Doyle contemporaries to the present day. Along with classics such as J.M. Barrie’s “The Adventure of the Two Collaborators” (a personal favorite of mine — I love Holmes’ parting taunt that the authors “shall henceforth ride in omnibuses!”), Penzler also includes gems like Davis Grubb’s “The Brown Recluse,” Poul Anderson’s “The Martian Crown Jewels,” and Neil Gaiman’s “The Case of Death and Honey.” The latter would make for an interesting paired read with Gaiman’s earlier “A Study in Emerald.”
It would have been nice to see more female authors represented in the table of contents; it’s always good to see Laurie King’s name, but she isn’t the only woman writing Holmesian fiction. Along the same lines, it would have been good to see some more pieces that play with the gender dynamic of the Holmes universe: swapping ages, races, or sexes to play with the ramifications. Amateur fanworks, too, are outside of the realm of this particular anthology. Of course, this is something of a difficult line to play: how much change is too much and brings in more new than original material? Penzler has written his usual thoughtful introductory essay and it would have been interesting to see his thoughts on the subject. However, if you’re looking for a good gift for your Holmesian — and you know they don’t already have it! — this is pretty much of a sure thing.
After all, we could use a little more Sherlock in our lives, and we still have a bit to wait for that BBC Christmas Special…