Books about fictional detectives—especially Sherlock Holmes—keep reproducing in my pile of books to be read. Much the same way as tribbles did in the original Star Trek TV series. (Anyone remember that besides me? Or am I really dating myself?) Novels, anthologies, what have you, about Sherlock Holmes multiply while I’m not watching. One such book is a slim short story collection by Bradley H. Sinor entitled The Game’s Afoot: A Holmesian Miscellany.
Three stories in this collection do not feature Holmes or Watson at all but feature other characters in the Holmes milieu. One such story includes Colonel Sebastian Moran, erstwhile associate of Professor Moriarty. Two other tales highlight Mycroft Holmes as detective/spy master. All of the adventures are of sufficient length and detail to give the reader an enjoyable view into the world of Holmes, Watson, et al. Unusual subject matter, such as vampires and alternate universes, enlivens a few of the tales. In “The Other Detective,” Holmes and Moriarty switch roles as the World’s First Consulting Detective and the Napoleon of Crime.
Precise prose enables these adventures to move along at a steady clip. Holmes inhabits his position as a man of few words but is somewhat less curmudgeonly than in Conan Doyle’s canon. Watson, a widower in these stories, meets the woman of his dreams for a second time in one of these narratives.
The Game’s Afoot: A Holmesian Miscellany is a nice change of pace considering the subject matter and change of worlds and lead characters in some of the stories.
Prose that’s precise and incisive defines Mary Behan’s treatment of the stories in Kernels: Stories. The characters who populate her stories exhibit unique and specific traits and mannerisms. For example, the unnamed narrator of “Dangerous Building” has buried memories of her younger years. She does so because they interfere with the pleasant way in which she wishes to remember aspects of her childhood. Things about the local manor house near where the narrator grew up are more than half forgotten. Memories of that long-ago time are not quite accurate.
In other stories, hopes and dreams are dashed only to have other dreams take their place in some cases. In “Imagined Scenes” Jennifer Fowler dreams of riding the Trans-Siberian Railway on its lengthy trip. For her, “each scene along the way had its own vivid color, smell and sound.” But due to imagined time and work constraints, “the Great Railway Bazaar scenes faded gradually as the years went by.” Jennifer ends up taking a totally different ride that opens up other dreams and vistas. In “All that Glitters is Not Gold,” Ellen drifts from loving Peter to having a friendship with Peter’s wife, Julia.
Location, Location, Location
Location is a character in several of Behan’s stories. In “Buried Treasure” location throws a distinct shadow. The pine woods and rocky ridge near Kate’s property throw a shadowy, slightly sinister chill over the story. Kate hears voices and smells cooking from a bygone era while walking on her property and the local nature preserve. In “Dangerous Building” the reader can visualize the broken-down manor house with its driveway bordered by rhododendrons and beech trees.
I enjoyed all of the stories in Kernels: Stories. These stories shone a light on different lives and circumstances. Behan’s prose provides the right touch to illuminate her characters and their background. Very well done.