Thu
Mar 9 2017 3:00pm

Review: The Whole Art of Detection by Lyndsay Faye

The Whole Art of Detection: Lost Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes by Lyndsay Faye is a stunning collection of Sherlock Holmes short stories inspired by the original Arthur Conan Doyle classics.

The Whole Art of Detection is such a remarkably well-done pastiche of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original Sherlock Holmes stories that it does indeed feel like lost mysteries written by Conan Doyle himself, as the subtitle suggests. Lindsay Faye expertly channels Watson’s voice as official biographer of the famous detective, and this collection would not be out of place among the very best stories of Sherlock Holmes.

The spirited banter of Holmes and Watson hits the reader right away, as this example from the first two pages of the first story, “The Case of Colonel Warburton’s Madness,” shows:

“My dear chap, would you care to take a turn with me? I’ve an errand with the boot-maker down the road, and the weather has cleared somewhat.”

I do not know if it was the still-ominous dark canopy that deterred him or his own pensive mood, but Holmes merely replied, “I require better distraction just now than an errand which is not my own and the capricious designs of a March rainstorm.”

“What precise variety of distraction would be more to your liking?” I inquired, a trifle nettled at his dismissal.

This kind of polite yet pointed banter between the two characters has always delighted me, and Faye absolutely nails it in each story of the collection. And, can I mention that the Colonel Warburton of the title of this piece is named Patrick Warburton? Reader, I laughed.

My favorite story of the collection is “The Lowther Park Mystery.” I just can't resist a mystery that requires Holmes to go out into polite society, a situation that's usually fraught with peril as well as comedy. I think Dr. Watson would agree with me:

“Never mind that I've as much interest in bureaucratic intrigue as I have in the seasonal weather patterns of the planet Saturn. The facts as I know them are—you'll come with me to Lowther Park, of course.”

“Of course. I'd sooner desert you at the height of a dangerous pursuit than leave you to fend for yourself at a high-ranking tea.”

The fifteen short stories included in this collection span the full career of Holmes, from amateur sleuth to highly regarded detective. From the mystery of Colonel Warburton’s nightmares to crimes of national importance to unexplainable deaths, there's definitely something for everyone.

Lyndsay Faye’s wit blends charmingly with Conan Doyle’s style, bringing a new voice to the timeless tales of Sherlock Holmes. She manages to honor the original work without sacrificing her own voice while also concocting mysteries worthy of Holmes’s prodigious talent for deduction. This is absolutely a must read for anyone with an interest in Sherlock Holmes or mysteries set in Victorian London, whether they are new to the genre or longtime fans of Holmesian plots.

 

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Ardi Alspach was born in Florida, raised in South Carolina, and now resides in New York City with her cat and an apartment full of books. By day, she's a publicist, and by night, she's a freelance writer. You can follow her on Twitter at @ardyceelaine or check out her website at ardyceelaine.wordpress.com.

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