Phil Growick conceived and curated The Art of Sherlock Holmes – USA Edition. The premise is simple. Collect a group of Sherlockian tales by accomplished writers familiar with the genre. Then ask world-class artists to each create a work of art that reflects one of the stories. Present the pairs together, offering readers a multi-layered experience. The resulting book is an enjoyable journey into England of Holmes’s time.
Each mystery tale follows the conventions of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories. Narrated by Dr. John Watson, they each tell the story of a single case. The details of the case, with related back story and adjacent details make up its basic structure.
Naturally, Mrs. Hudson and Inspector Lestrade make the requisite appearances. Within the collection, we also meet plenty of other characters, not the least of which is Bram Stoker in a tale from Charles Veley and Anna Elliott. There’s a Pharaoh, a mummy, a Romany fortune teller, and countless upper crust Englishmen. There’s even a bearded lady.
My favorite story is tough to call, although I’m leaning towards The Case of the Cuneiform Suicide Note by Mark Mower. And I especially appreciated the art from Bruce Helander (pictured here.)
What varies in any themed short story collection is the quality of the writing. And in this case, that quality felt uneven. Some stories are tightly drawn, with the requisite suspense. Others are more flawed in either narrative arc or dialogue.
The art, however, is uniformly terrific and visually eclectic. The unique technique and style of each artist offers a window into the story. Some are abstract and others realistic. The visions of Holmes and Watson connect with their setting and even the mystery clues. Including art added a valuable dimension to the stories.
It’s hard to hit the right note of Sherlockian language and dialogue. It should sound Victorian, clearly not be overly modern, but still be readable. The speakers use a more formal tone than we would, but done poorly, their conversational style sounds stilted and off-putting to the present-day reader. Some authors in this collection strike a better balance than others.
But as always, Holmes and Watson are a joy to behold. Watson’s consternation at his mediocre detecting skills is on full display here. And Holmes, of course, lacks a filter for his condescending feelings about every other character.
If traveling to 19th-century London and other English towns for some mysterious doings sounds fun, then this is a book for you. I recommend pairing it with The Merchant of Menace by Rich Ryan or Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners.
Many thanks to MX Publishing, the curator, and the authors for the opportunity to read a digital ARC in exchange for this honest review. Find more about the project here.