24th February, 4 Comments
By John Watson
Some pastiches are better than others and John Taylor’s first set of stories, The Unopened Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, was quite good but they had a slightly bizarre and comic element that some Sherlockians may not have liked. I now understand that they were intended for a younger audience.
Taylor’s original stories appeared on the radio before being released on CD, and have now been released as an The Paranormal Casebook of Sherlock Holmes with a foreword that I must have written at some point.
The new stories, The Rediscovered Railway Mysteries, have not been broadcast and appear on CD and download. They are much more realistic and have the benefit of being read by the latest incarnation of Sherlock Holmes, Benedict Cumberbatch, though he is, of course, narrating the stories as myself.
For once the stories are not from one of the many tin boxes that seem to materialise whenever anyone needs to find a Holmes case to relate but from a wooden chest in my bureau. Yet another “archive of notes referring to some of Holmes’ cases that, for one reason or another, never saw the light of day.”
The first story “An Inscrutable Masquerade” appears not to have an obvious railway connection until very near the end but the byline in the title of the set of stories is “and other stories” so I suppose that is fine. It is nevertheless an intriguing story of how I appear to be leading a double life. It nicely follows my usual style of narration where I give nothing away until all is revealed towards the end.
The second story “The Conundrum of Coach 13” is firmly placed on the rails and is a “closed room problem” although in this case it is a carriage rather than a room, locked from the outside, from which a large quantity of gold bullion has completely vanished without trace.
The third story “The Trinity Vicarage Larceny” again has no railway connection that I could remember. It concerns a robbery (now who can say why this was a larceny rather than a burglary?) where a set of boots provides the main clues that lead to the case being solved.
The fourth story “The 10.59 Assassin” is a very ingenious story involving a very unlikely murderer. Here there is a clear railway connection in a murder and as the suspicion grows there comes an unusual twist. In some ways it reminds me of Silver Blaze. The murderer is the least suspicious of all the possibilities!
Cumberbatch’s reading of the stories is excellent despite the fact that his BBC Sherlock persona that kept popping into my head, especially when he is speaking as Holmes. He also does a very good job of helping the listener distinguish between Holmes, myself and the other characters in the stories and he switches between voices and accents with consumate ease.
These are very accomplished pastiches by John Taylor and, in my view, a much more serious attempt to emulate my style of narration. I hope he is encouraged to write more and that Cumberbatch can be persuaded to narrate again. A complete set of the Canon, read by Cumberbatch, would be a large undertaking but would, I am sure give a fresh take on my stories.
The railways are mentioned in many of our cases together, but mainly just as a means of travel. Alistair Duncan’s “Close to Holmes” contains details of many of the stations we used in and around London.