Michael Reaves and John Pelan, Shadows Over Baker Street

Posted June 6, 2011 by Kathy Davie in

Shadows Over Baker StreetShadows Over Baker Street by Michael Reaves
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This anthology of short stories revolve around a central theme of Sherlock Holmes…with a twist, an H.P. Lovecraft twist. Every tale involves the supernatural and it’s an intriguing mix of the feel of Holmes’ England and Watson’s companionship. The disconcerting aspect is not the supernatural as much as it’s the individual authors creating future histories for each man and none of those histories connect. As I read, I couldn’t understand what happened to that second marriage or how the various authors reconciled Holmes’ disappearance between 1893, his apparent death at Reichenbach Falls and 1903 when he reappears. A minor note amidst the otherwise very captivating stories.

Neil Gaiman’s A Study in Emerald (1881) refers to the case Holmes investigated involving the German word “rache” although this one’s definition incorporates more than revenge. I loved the ads Gaiman incorporated into the story…just making sure the reader understands its supernatural aspects as he creates a fantasy world with its alien monarchy…eeeee…

Elizabeth Bear’s Tiger! Tiger (1882)‘s claim to Holmes is its use of Irene Adler as one of the shooters on a tiger hunt in India. A good story in its own right, I was frustrated with it as I kept hunting for its association to Holmes. Bear’s rendering left too many questions to be satisfying.

Steve Perry’s Case of the Wavy Black Dagger (1884) includes a Spice Islands priestess, a kris, and the Old Ones.

Steven-Elliot Atlman’s A Case of Royal Blood (1888) involved the Dutch court with its ghostly stalking of its remaining blood royal, the Princess Wilhelmina.

James Lowder’s Weeping Masks (1890) tells the true tale of Watson’s debilitating experiences in Afghanistan when he comes up against the Weeping Ones. Lowder provides just enough information to be creepy but much too insufficient to inform.

Brian Stableford’s Art in the Blood (1892) is a confusing tale of old blood activating through objects. Only if one were enthused of the sea would the curse begin to transform one’s body.

Poppy Z. Brite and David Ferguson’s Curious Case of Miss Violet Stone (1894) involves a botched communication.

Barbara Hambly’s Adventure of the Antiquarian’s Niece (1894) is a true Hambly-esque tale of magic and tragedy with a truly creepy though practical ending. Eeeee…

John Pelan’s Mystery of the Worm (1894) was another of those frustrating tales involving “Egyptian” artifacts and a deluded scientist willing to risk anyone and anything to live forever.

Paul Finch’s Mystery of the Hanged Man’s Puzzle (1897) involves the sewers and a plot to dose all of London and eventually the world into evolving into a newer, more amphibious species.

Tim Lebbon’s Horror of the Many Faces (1898) is the ghoulish tale of an alien scientist exploring the structure of mankind…internally.

Michael Reeves Adventure of the Arab’s Manuscript (1898) illuminates more of Dr. Watson’s Afghan adventures with the appearance of Miriam, the daughter of a tribal chief who nursed Watson back to life. Supposedly, she is hunting the Kitab al-Azif, one of the complete versions of the Necronomicon to keep it safe.

Caitlín R. Kiernan’s Drowned Geologist (1898) takes the form of a letter written by Dr. Logan, a paleontologist with the American Museum of Natural History, imploring Dr. Watson to investigate the connections between three ammonites discovered in shales outside of their expected time period and Phoenician and/or Irish gods and the drowning death of Sir Elijah, a geologist, whom Logan had met earlier. A letter expressing expectations of a future. A letter written shortly after the theft of the one ammonite still in public hands and one day before his “suicide”.

John P. Vourlis’ A Case of Insomnia (1899) felt like a crossover with Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody with its Egyptian curse of the stone and the otherworldly beastie attempting its recovery.

Richard A. Lupoff’s Adventure of the Voorish Sign (1899) combines gypsies with the otherworldly as it combines magical “religious” observances with otherworldly architecture to create a doorway between worlds. I do wish Lupoff had given closure to Lord Fairclough. I did like the description of the Anthracite Palace, a truly remarkable sounding edifice.

F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre’s Adventure of Exham Priory (1902) provides a supernatural explanation of what actually happened at Reichenbach Falls in 1893 when Holmes grappled with Moriarty and they fell. This particular story, Adventure of Exham Priory, involves a blood curse and the Elder Gods. A curse restricted to a particular family that only activates on contact with an otherworldly doorway. MacIntyre cracks me up with his so very solemn revelation of Moriarty’s greatest regret…it’s not surprising to learn he grew up in Australia!

David Niall Wilson and Patricia Lee Macomber’s Dead Did Not Become Him (1902) involves greed and an easy path for the son of a Jewish rabbi who misuses his religion’s science and golems to thwart a tontine. Unfortunately for the perpetrator, the doctor who signed Michael Adcott’s death certificate is Dr. Watson.

Simon Clark’s Nightmare in Wax (1915) refers to the wax cylinder which Professor Moriarty uses to record his triumph in uncovering the drowned village of Burnston up Yorkshire way. It seems he stumbled across a copy of the Necronomicon and intends to use its secrets to rule the world. It’s a gruesome tale as Moriarty calmly sits by as the evolved inhabitants of the village destroy and eat his workmen.

Clark’s is a frustrating story as we start the tale in 1915 when government officials ask Watson to identify the voices on the cylinder while the end of the story is supposedly in 1903 when Holmes, I’m guessing, hands the wax cylinder over to the Home Office. Further confusion is created because Watson mentions [in the beginning] that he received the critical telegram three weeks ago in, I can only assume, 1903 although it is currently 1915. I mention this because Watson concludes the story with his concern over whether he should have mentioned that only one day after he received the 1903 telegram, Holmes telephoned him with a warning about Moriarity having recovered the book Holmes had tossed out. We are also led to believe that it’s been 12 years since Watson, or anyone, has seen Holmes. Very irritating and not at all the enticement I assume Clark was attempting.

The Cover
Kris Tobiassen’s cover art is a lovely comic reflection of the supernatural with its ghostly Holmes, eerie, faced skeletal trees, slavering demon dogs, and menacing figures hinted in the distance with the shivery title superimposed over all.

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