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Today I concluded reading “Sherlock Holmes: Repeat Business” by Lyn McConchie. The idea here is that it is a collection of new Sherlock Holmes cases, each initiated by someone Holmes served in the Canon.
I was a little exasperated with the first story. Ms. McConchie had a story related to, and having everything to do, with Jabez Wilson, but Wilson himself doesn’t appear in the story! Holmes is hired here by Jabez Wilson’s new wife, who is concerned when her husband is accused of murdering her first husband. How can this author write a story concerning one of the most humorous and memorable Canonical characters, and yet not actually depict him? Where’s the fun in that?
The author somewhat redeems herself in later stories, depicting the likes of James Windibank, who is again trying to take financial advantage of his step-daughter, Mary Sutherland, the banker Alexander Holder of the Beryl Coronet adventure, Grant Munroe, where we get to check in on Effie and her mixed race daughter of “The Yellow Face”, Watson’s old school friend Tadpole Phelps, who has again ran afoul of his brother-in-law, etc. She does use the unique info about these characters as plot points in the stories, which is much to the better. Two obvious examples are a vanished student from the school where Violet Hunter is now Headmistress, and the use of acting ability of Neville St Clair, whose depiction of a London beggar was the central piece in his original Canonical appearance.
While the author’s depictions of these characters are not particularly memorable, Ms. McConchie does demonstrate two important strengths. First, she is obviously an accomplished mystery writer, and her puzzles and problems constructed for these stories are professional and satisfying.. Even more surprising and pleasing is that she is very good at depicting the friendship and interaction between Holmes and Watson, who clearly know each other’s habits and idiosyncrasies as well as we Sherlockians like to think we do. So, despite the use of all these memorable and familiar Canonical characters, it is the Holmes/Watson depiction that is the outstanding feature of this work, and, in itself makes these stories worth reading.
At a time when much of what is called “pastiche” work has the quality of self-published fan fiction, finding yourself in the hands of a professional quality mystery writer and Sherlock Holmes fan is certainly worth noting.