Two Hundred and Twenty-One Baker Streets

Two Hundred and Twenty-One Baker Streets: An Anthology of Holmesian Tales Across Time and Space - Guy Adams, Glen Mehn, Kasey Lansdale

(I received an ARC courtesy of NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)

Like most anthologies, this one included interesting stories, and others that didn't impress me much.

It focuses not on the Sherlock Holmes we know, but on other approaches, such as Holmes and Watson in the 70s, or as teenage girls, or in a China-like land of magic. This definitely stretches the canon pretty far, but also allows for something different. I'm quite an avid reader of Doyle's original stories, and I'm always of a mixed opinion regarding that kind of approach: part of me wants to see what else can be done, in alternative universes, while another part always remains wary of what is going to be done to "my" Holmes, because past some point, it's not really Holmes & Watson anymore. I'd deem myself as straddling the fence here.

Mostly I found this collection ranging from average to good, nothing abysmal or excellent. One thing I appreciated here, though, is the way Watson was handled: like a valuable partner to Holmes. I've always disliked when he was shown as a bumbling idiot (which he is really far from being); I didn't get that feeling here. Whether as a drug-dealer in the 60s' New york City or as a magician at the court of a powerful lord, Watson (or Jane, or Wu Tsan...) wasn't some of comic relief, but a character in his/her own right.

On the other hand, for an anthology that wanted itself different, sometimes I thought it could've carried things just a tad bit further, for instance by playing more on the female!Holmes or female!Watson variation, or by exploring other venues than London or the United States, which were often used. Another gripe would be that the mysteries in some of the stories weren't so interesting; a couple of them didn't even have Sherlock solve something.

The ones I liked:

* "The Final Conjuration", in which "Wu Tsan" the magician summons a demon called "The Sherlock" to help him investigate the mysterious death of one of the Seven Wizards of his country. The twist at the end definitely made me grin. Clever, clever Holmes.

* "Parallels", in which "Jane" writes AU Sherlock/Holmes fanfiction she doesn't want her best friend "Charlotte" to see. Nothing really unexpected here, but I have a weak spot for stories that play on tropes, web communities, fanfiction, and/or hint to other books or series. Charlotte also mirrored well enough Holmes's sometimes devious ways of causing clues to pop up.

* "A Woman's Place" also caught my attention for the way it plays on Mrs. Hudson's role as someone who's always here to listen to conversations if she so decides, and why she does it.

* "Half There/All There" if you have at least some knowledge of the 60s' scene and like reading about it, and for its exploration of Watson and Holmes's potential relationshop.

* "The Innocent Icarus" is interesting as well for its worldbuilding: a Victorian setting in which everybody has some kind of special power, and that allows for another type of questioning (i.e. the different reactions of people who're born without powers).

It's not the best anthology I've ever read, and it might deter a reader who's not at ease with stories sometimes veering towards the bizarre and nonsensical, but overall, it was still a pleasant enough read.