Title: The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Ectoplasmic Man
Author: Daniel Stashower
Format: Paperback, Titan Books
A few years back, Titan Books turned out a line of books entitled The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. This series was exactly what it sounds like, adventures of Holmes post Doyle written by a variety of writers. I have read and previously reviewed one of these elsewhere and called it, paraphrasing here, one of the worst reading experiences I’ve ever had. I attempted to read a second and couldn’t finish for fear that I would have to revise that prior statement if I did. So, it’s safe to say that my experience with Titan’s foray into tales of the World’s Greatest Consulting Detective was anything but positive.
I can say that that has changed, at least somewhat, due to one of the books in the imprint.
The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Ectoplasmic Man by Daniel Stashower finds Holmes in the later years of his career involved in a case of international intrigue involving the theft of letters written between the soon to be George V and a German countess. These letters are stolen in such a way that the only possible suspect, both for Scotland Yard’s Lestrade and Holmes brother, Mycroft, is the performer for the dignitaries at the mansion the night the letters are stolen. That performer is none other than Harry Houdini.
What follows is nothing short of a Victorian Roller Coaster Ride, involving jailing Houdini and binding him head to toe in chains and straitjackets, an impenetrable vault, gunplay, a mysterious figure in a red muffler and hat, and even airplanes! And all the while, Stashower not only writes Holmes and Watson in a pitch perfect way, he capitalizes on the characteristics of the pair as they interplay with Houdini that make this more than just two great icons coming together. It’s a true buddy flick cast in the gaslights of a London long lost, two geniuses in their own fields who clash and bash into each other, only to find they complement each other perfectly to resolve the mystery and have one hell of an adventure while doing it. This isn’t an easy alliance and that makes it all that much more engaging.
Crafting this as a lost tale penned by Watson, Stashower captures every nuance of Holmes in a way I’ve seen almost no one else do. He is just as skillful with Houdini, but the reason for that is grounded in his penning of The Harry Houdini Mysteries, three books featuring Houdini at the start of his career solving mysteries with his wife, Bess, and brother, Dash (I’ll be reviewing them soon, but take my word for it, three of the best mysteries I’ve ever read). The characters are real, stepping off the page into the reader’s mind and snatching said reader back into the text with them.
This book also contains a fair bit of physical action and daring do in it, largely due to Houdini’s presence. I know some people have issue with this in their Holmes’ tales because there wasn’t a proliferation of it in Doyle’s work, but what Stashower does in this story not only fits, but it stays within the acceptable parameters of action that Holmes and Watson would engage in and offers enough surprises to leave you on the edge of the page, eager to turn to the next one to see what happens.
If there were more than five pages to give for The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Ectoplasmic Man. Every mark that Stashower had to hit to make this both a great Holmes book and a wonderful Houdini tale, he hit with amazing accuracy.
is definitely one of the big guns, getting six out of six bullets. This book is a success in every sense of the word, from nailing Doyle’s voice to wonderfully reconstructing Houdini and Holmes and all who accompany them to delivering a level of action that definitely thrilled and fit into the expectations of a Holmes tale. You should read this volume if You’re a Holmes fan, a Houdini follower, a reader of mysteries, a lover of Victorian work, or simply someone who can just read words. By far the best modern non Doyle Holmes story I’ve ever read, and made even better because of Houdini.