Author and bookstore owner Brenda Seabrooke is the author of nearly two-dozen books, and several years ago, she turned her attention to writing Sherlockian pastiches, contributing a number of excellent stories to anthologies published by the two Sherlockian publishers that matter, MX Publishing and Belanger Books. Now these tales have been collected in her first Sherlockian volume, “Sherlock Holmes: The Persian Slipper and Other Stories”.
“The Case of the Accused Cook”, originally published in Part XXIV of “The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories”, received special praise from Publishers Weekly, which stated that the story “plausibly flesh[ed] out the characters of the Scotland Yarders most frequently featured in the canon”.
This volume has eight Holmes adventures, and in the introduction, Ms. Seabrooke mentions that she’s written fifteen of them, with plans for more. I personally know of at least one that she’s written since then – a grim tale involving vampires and angry mobs in an obscure and dangerous village. I’m looking forward to seeing it and those others soon in Ms. Seabrooke’s next Holmes collection.
In Sherlock Holmes: The Persian Slipper and Other Stories, Brenda Seabrooke does an excellent job of recreating Arthur Conan Doyle's brisk, steady pacing. Seabrooke shows all sides of the famous duo. From Sherwin Soames, a tall lad interested in chemistry interacting with a Scottish lad, Ian Dotson, to John Watson helping solve one of the first cases he encounters early in his friendship with Holmes. Although uneven, these stories entertain.
Even as a young lad, Sherwin Soames, Seabrook’s protagonist in “The Marzando Matter,” has the markings of the adult we know from Conan Doyle. In this story, Soames admits he has already studied thieves, pickpockets, cut-purses and the like. Soames concludes: “The human mind is capable of almost anything and once set on a path is unlikely to change it unless or until it is expedient to do so.” “The Persian Slipper” lacks strength. Why would Holmes just insert himself into a case without being asked? The client had sought out Dr. Watson. Why would Holmes suggest that he and Watson use aliases while they were at the home of the fiancé of the client’s sister? And before he knew much of the facts in the case. Why would George Spencer-Hytton (the fiancé) suddenly show marked improvement when Dr. Watson had barely begun treatment?
Somewhat better is “The Curse of Barcombe Keep.” Sherlock Holmes lets on that he believes in curses to route out the murderer. Although why the staff were so shaken by an apparent curse that affected only the members of the Northington family, owners of the house, one can only guess.
Seabrooke creates a believable pair in her rendition of Holmes and Watson. As usual, Holmes is a step or two ahead of Watson in interpreting clues and witnesses. Seabrooke's Watson demonstrates a sense of humor. At the beginning of “The Persian Slipper,” Watson grumbles about the heat while observing Holmes watching ice slivers in separate teacups. Smoke is rising from one of the cups. After a moment, Watson says, “I say – your ice is afire. It’s so hot even the ice is burning up.” Turns out, the cup contains a sliver of dry ice. Holmes is comparing the melting of that versus real ice.
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