No Exit Press,
23 May 2019.
When Sherlock Holmes stories were first published between 1887
and 1927, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation encouraged other writers of the
period to pen tales of their own super sleuths.
More Rivals of Sherlock Holmes is a carefully chosen selection of
fifteen detective stories published between 1890 and 1914. Here is a whistle-stop tour through the
The Missing Heir (1896)
by Herbert Keen, begins the compilation.
An unassuming clerk, Mr Perkins, receives an intimation of good fortune
from the mysterious Mr Farquhar Barrington.
Perkins sensibly consults his friend, retired detective Mr Booth, before
signing a financial agreement with Barrington.
But will Booth’s skepticism cause Perkins to lose his inheritance
In Ernest Bramah’s
The Tragedy at Brookbend Cottage (1914), the brilliant, blind detective Max
Carrados is engaged by Lieutenant Hollyer who has a hunch that his sister,
Millicent Hollyer, is about to be murdered by her unfaithful husband. Another matrimonial mismatch follows in The
Arrest of Captain Vandaleur (1899) by LT Meade and Robert Eustace. Walter Farrell, a successful businessman, has
become addicted to gambling, a habit which is squandering his fortune and
ruining his wife’s health. Can the
investigative expertise of Florence Cusack save the situation?
One Possessed (1913), by EW Hornung, describes how Dr John
Dollar uses psychology to investigate the erratic behaviour of a wife who
appears to “be losing her reason.” In
the next story, JE Preston Muddock’s Glaswegian Detective, Dick Donovan, seeks
to retrieve The Jewelled Skull (1892).
Muddock’s detective predated Holmes and was, according to some critics,
even more popular with readers than the Baker Street detective.
the detective created by Arthur Morrison, has been described as a
sociopath. In The Case of the Mirror
of Portugal (1897), Dorrington tries to get his own hands on a diamond that
has been stolen from a would-be client.
In 1971 the story appeared on BBC television as the 6th episode in
Season 1 of The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. Morrison also authored the next tale, The
Ivy Cottage Mystery (1895), which features another unusual detective,
Martin Hewitt. The author’s note
describes Hewitt as the “antithesis” of Sherlock Holmes who attributes his
successes not to genius but tenacity: “…my ‘well known powers’ are nothing but
common sense assiduously applied and made quick by habit.”
Next, Judith Lee
heralds three more female detectives in the compilation. Conscience (1911),
by Richard Marsh, describes how Judith, a “lazy-looking girl,” employs her “inconvenient”
gift of being able to lip-read, to solve the mysterious deaths of three
women. The next contribution comes from
Baroness Orczy’s 1910 collection, Lady Molly of Scotland Yard. In The
Man in the Inverness Cape we find Lady Molly disguised as “the landlady of
a disreputable gambling-house” in order to discover the whereabouts of Mr
Leonard Marvel. Our next sleuth is the
American detective Madelyn Mack. In The
Missing Bridegroom (1914), by Hugh Cosgro Weir, Mack exudes confidence and
intelligence as she, along with her journalist-friend Nora Noraker and dog
Peter the Great, cracks a case that has the police baffled.
disappearance provides the subject for The Vanished Millionaire, one of The
Chronicles Of Addington Peace (1905) by B Fletcher Robinson. This time a man has walked out into the snow
leaving only his footprints behind. Next
up is The Divination of the Kodak Films (1895) by Headon Hill. When Lady Hertlet’s diamonds are stolen from
her room in Okeover Castle, the quick actions of Sir Frederick Cranstoun bring
about the arrest of the perpetrators.
The jewels, however, are nowhere to be found and will remain hidden
unless Detective Mark Poignand can unravel the meaning of Kala Persad’s
In David Christie
Murray’s (1895) The Case of Muelvos Y Sagra, Detective John Pym, is
more a clone than a rival of Holmes.
Keen-eyed readers will recognise the narrative as remarkably similar to
a more famous tale published in February 1892 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Next, The Search for the Missing Fortune
(1914) by Percy James Brebner, involves a convoluted will, strange funeral
arrangements and a silver pin!
Finally, in R.
Austin Freeman’s The Mandarin’s Pearl (1909), Fred Calverley regrets
purchasing a pendant pearl when he subsequently finds out it is stolen
property. Convinced that the pendant is
cursed he consults John Thorndyke and then the real trouble begins…
success of his earlier collection, The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, this
book by Nick Rennison will appeal to readers who simply enjoy Victorian and Edwardian
detective fiction for its own sake as well as academics and historians of the
genre. The editor’s succinct notes are
informative, interesting and entertaining.
The influence of Conan Doyle’s writing is evident in most of the tales,
but this does not diminish their value both as narratives in their own right
and as artefacts of this important period in the development of detective
literature. More Rivals of Sherlock
Holmes is highly enjoyable and illuminating throughout.
Nick Rennison is a writer, editor and
bookseller with a particular interest in the Victorian era and in crime
fiction. He has written several Pocket Essential guides published by Oldcastle
Books including Short History of the Polar Exploration, Roget, Freud and Robin
Hood. He is also the author of The Bloomsbury Good Reading Guide to Crime
Fiction, 100 Must-Read Crime Novels and Sherlock Holmes: An Unauthorised
Biography. His debut crime novel, Carver's Quest, set in nineteenth century
London, was published by Atlantic Books. He is a regular reviewer for both The
Sunday Times and BBC History Magazine.
Dot Marshall-Gent worked in the
emergency services for twenty years first as a police officer, then as a
paramedic and finally as a fire control officer before graduating from King’s
College, London as a teacher of English in her mid-forties. She completed
a M.A. in Special and Inclusive Education at the Institute of Education, London
and now teaches part-time and writes mainly about educational issues. Dot
sings jazz and country music and plays guitar, banjo and piano as well as being
addicted to reading mystery and crime fiction.
Post a Comment