Book review: The Execution of Sherlock Holmes, by Donald Thomas

Donald Thomas is a well kent name in Holmes circles, with his Tales From the Crypt a lauded work. In The Execution of Sherlock Holmes, Thomas demonstrates his skill at mimicking the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as he pulls off a piece of work as close to the original ACD style as you could hope for.

The style, prose and language are all well in line with what you would expect from the original stories, as are the plot lines, which actually are nigh-on cliched for those familiar with Holmes’s casebook. There is a royal family needing help, a penniless commoner who has had their honour questioned and a Moriarty (no, not that one..!) who completes the handful of tales herein by bringing us full circle to the ‘execution’ opener.

The five stories all have their singular points of interest, and vary massively in quality. The opener is intriguing, a dark story of Holmes’s fight for life as a group of lifelong enemies lock him up and ready him for the gallows after a mock trial. ‘The Case of the Greek Key’ is a pretty staid affair and is a real low point in the book.

Things pick up as another of the ACD staples is wheeled out. Holmes and Watson are holidaying in the country and get involved, eventually, in a murder where things aren’t quite what they seem.

The penultimate story, ‘The Case of the Phantom Chambermaid’ is possibly the best reenactment of the original style, although lacks some of the punch of the book’s opener. The plot is clever and showcases Holmes’s observation skills at their best.

‘The Queen of the Night’ ends the collection of short stories. Thomas uses the opener to segue into the closer as Moriarty’s brother seeks to carry out an elaborate theft underneath the noses of the great and good of England’s aristocracy. He is, of course, foiled by a patient Holmes who is at his irritatingly arrogant best in this yarn.

The Execution of Sherlock Holmes is a mixed bag, but worth buying for the opener alone.


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