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Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Review: Sherlock Holmes and the Lyme Regis Horror

Sherlock Holmes and the Lyme Regis Horror
Expanded 2nd Edition
By David Ruffle
Reviewed by Amy Thomas
The Baker Street Babes

Sherlock Holmes and the Lyme Regis Horror begins with an innocent excursion to a seaside town. Within a few pages, however, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson find themselves embroiled in a mysterious and horrible secret that threatens an entire city. Following this novella-length pastiche is a brief collection of Holmes-related short stories, some of which are Victorian pastiches and others of which are more loosely connected to the Holmes canon.

Throughout the main story and most of the shorts that follow, Mr. Ruffle uses Watson as his narrator, capably mimicking the style of the Conan Doyle originals. His Watson is sincere and trustworthy, his Holmes logical and abstruse. The book’s main story occasionally veers dangerously close to an overuse of Holmes tropes, but the awkwardness falls away as the plot intensifies, and Mr. Ruffle’s prose truly shines in moments of intense action.

A reader’s ability to enjoy this book largely hinges on an individual appreciation for supernatural elements in fiction, and, more particularly, in Sherlock Holmes-related fiction. The Conan Doyle practice of providing natural explanations for seemingly-supernatural phenomena is totally subverted here, and Mr. Ruffle does not shy away from including the paranormal in more than one story. The reader who enjoys these elements is likely to be pleased, as they are incorporated in a logical way, investigated in a legitimately Holmesian manner, and described in a convincingly Watsonian voice.

To this reviewer, the best moments of the book occur in its final third, when Mr. Ruffle ventures into the tricky world of short-story pastiches. Particularly in The Trumper Affair, an excellently-drawn case involving cricket and abduction, the narrative voice and plot progression are so pitch-perfect as to be almost indistinguishable from the canon. Also worth mentioning is the author’s obvious affection for the town of Lyme Regis, exemplified in his meticulous attention to the details of its history, appearance, and atmosphere throughout the book.

Sherlock Holmes and the Lyme Regis Horror is a successful book with occasional weaknesses in narration and editing, but one that ultimately provides an engaging Holmesian experience, particularly for those who appreciate tales of the paranormal. The quality short stories included in this edition provide touches of true excellence.

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