Anyone who frequents this site should know by now that we love Halloween. In preparation of that wonderful holiday, I’m postponing our regularly scheduled reviews of the Jeremy Brett episodes for a brief detour…
Have you ever looked back on a long-standing friendship and wondered where it all started? Maybe wondered what would have happened if you went a different way to work or school or wherever it was that you met that person; would it all have turned out differently?
I am all about the pastiche. Sherlock Holmes only had 60 original stories, and that simply wasn’t enough, and I’m not alone in feeling that way. Over the years, I’ve read countless stories written by other writers. Like Doyle, some of the best are the short format ones; often the longer books get bogged down, but the short story collections are typically great. Alas, it took me a while to realize that the titular Doctor Was Not is an anagram of Watson. It’s an interesting idea, but make no mistake: this book does feature Sherlock’s sidekick, just not always the way we know him. It looks like multiverse is a hot word right now and we’re getting more than our elementary dose with this book.
The first story in the book sets the groundwork for all that will follow, which makes this different than the highly acclaimed Shadow Over Baker Street. Author Christopher Sequeira gives us The Final Prologue, where a very strange train ride devised by Professor Moriarty shows Sherlock and Watson that there is a multiverse of additional Sherlock’s and Watson’s. They encounter a number of them in this adventure, including a Frankenstein-like nightmare that I thought would be fascinating to explore. The story leaves Sherlock pondering what else is out there and we’re going to find out.
All of the stories are stand-alone, but the idea put forth in the first story sets things in motion. Each story envisions Holmes paired with another famous (or perhaps that should be infamous) doctor.
The Forlorn Death of Sally at the Crossroads by Dennis O’Neill – It took me no time to piece this one together as it started in Tombstone. Doc Holiday makes a strange companion. A particularly good story, and a fun start to the anthology.
The Sign of Two: Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Jekyll by Philip Cornell – The title leaves no mystery here. I’ve always been a fan of the duality posited by Stevenson’s classic so this was one I couldn’t wait to get lost in. It’s one of many iterations of Sherlock and Jekyll.
The Adventure of the Madman by John Seward Together with an Addendum by His Wife by Nancy Holder – Again, the title leaves little to the imagination if you’re at all familiar with classic literature. Dr. Seward is the chief of the asylum in Dracula.
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Nikola: The Adventure of the Empty Throne by Brad Mengel – Not to be outdone for titles that give away the pairing, Dr. Nicola Tesla is our counterpart in this story.
The Adventure of the Reckless Resurrectionist by Will Murray – By this story, I was getting wise to the overall idea of the book – call me slow – but when I’d seen the title, all I could do was hope. Murray does not let this fan of H. P. Lovecraft down, bringing us a tale with the Reanimator himself, Dr. Herbert West. I feel the urge to reread this one as Halloween approaches.
The Angel of Truth by I. A. Watson – Probably one of the more unusual stories, though equally one of the most interesting ones, has the old advisor to Elizabeth I and noted court astronomer, Dr. John Dee in with the adventure. How does a man from the 1600’s interact with Sherlock Holmes? Leave it to an occultist…
The Locked Cell Murder by Ron Fortier – The first sentence gives it away: “Dr. Van Helsing was late as usual!” I was locked in for another adventure with one of the cast from Bram Stoker’s classic. I confess to being very pro-Dracula, so it’s not a surprise that I’d be neck deep in this story.
The Adventure of the Slaughter Stone by Rafe McGregor – I was utterly mesmerized by this choice and it’s not one I saw coming at all. All of our Doctor Was Not’s have been from other series. To find one from Doyle himself was unexpected. Dr. Grimsby Roylott ends up being Holmes’s companion for this story! And a very interesting story it was.
The Adventure of the Walk-Out Wardrobe by Julie Ditrich – One of the longer stories of the book introduces Dr. M and believe me, we all know him. Suffice to say, he’s well known in the canon and marks the second one of these stories to pull from the works of Arthur Conan Doyle. I found this a strange tale and it’s the first time I’d ever been forced to consider what colors I associated with Sherlock Holmes. Come to that, what colors do I associate with many characters? Ah well…
Curtain Call by J. Scherpenhuizen – Opening at the opera with Dr. Faustus, I was ready to find the latest companion a devilishly clever fellow. To my surprise, it’s actually Dr. Hieronymus Mabuse that’s to accompany the great detective on this mystery. I knew very little of Dr. Mabuse barring that he was known for many mystical abilities, but that was enough to whet the appetite.
The Investigation into the Dawning Od: A Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle Mystery by Andrew Salomon – The anthology ends with Conan Doyle himself and it’s a good ending to an enjoyable series of what-if’s.
Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Was Not is a fascinating look at alternate universe versions of Sherlock and Watson. These are a very interesting series of stories, that held my attention deeply. Of course, some more than others, but they were all fascinating examples of what might have been. It all comes back to what I said at the start: one little change, and a wonderful friendship could have been replaced by another and we’d never know the difference. This book gives us a chance to speculate: what if another doctor walked into that room with Stamford? What might have been? It’s a question I ask myself all the time. ML