Mycroft Holmes & The Adventure of the Silver Birches
By David Dickinson
Reviewed by Amy Thomas
The Baker Street Babes
The beginning of The Adventure of the Silver Birches alerts the reader to the vacuum created by the retirement of Sherlock Holmes, and his absence sets the tone for a story in which his elder brother, Mycroft, is called on to do things far outside his comfort zone in order to ensure the safety of the British nation. As is the case with many stories in the original canon, the tale is briefly told through a few key characters, a short investigation, and a climax with a surprising resolution.
One of the story’s strengths is the portrait it paints of Mycroft, a picture rich with details about his lifestyle, habits, and associates. He is a believable extension of the original Mycroft Holmes—more fleshed-out, but certainly compatible with his persona as conceived by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Inspector Lestrade, too, is a strong presence, and his dogged, uncreative policework is capably contrasted with Mycroft’s subtler methods.
Mycroft’s assistant, a young man known only as Tobias, is an intriguing original character with a complex personality. Tobias is to Mycroft what Dr. Watson is to Sherlock, but he in no way resembles the army doctor of the original stories. Instead, Tobias is cerebral, witty, and academic, and his dryness accounts for some moments of wry humor in the narrative.
The mystery itself is straightforward and fast-paced, and the ending manages to be unexpected. As with most short stories, the action is boiled down to the barest necessities, but enough information is present to immerse the reader in the case.
The story contains several references to original stories and characters that are sure to delight canon-lovers, but at the same time it also provides new perspectives to enjoy. Sherlock, no longer resident in London, is nevertheless frequently mentioned, and the contrast between his personality and Mycroft’s is aptly preserved.
Short-story pastiches face many challenges, not the least of which is the fact that most of the Conan Doyle stories were short, and therefore comparison is inevitable. The Adventure of the Silver Birches employs the format capably and presents an interesting picture of Mycroft Holmes at the helm of a case that his brother would certainly have tackled in a very different way.
Published by Endeavour Press