A few clunkers aside: a very entertaining volume.

SHADOWS OVER BAKER STREET

NEW TALES OF TERROR

Conan Doyle’s immortal creations Holmes and Watson battle enigmatic forces of darkness in this smartly conceived collection of 18 new tales of intrigue, detection, and horror.

Each story proceeds from the premise that the dauntless duo are engaged to solve crimes whose perpetrators are eerily reminiscent of phenomena described in H.P. Lovecraft’s grisly Ctulhu Mythos stories. The manual of black arts studied by such creatures is the dreaded Necronomicon, conveniently described (in editor Reaves’s “The Adventure of the Arab’s Manuscript”) as “a compendium of ancient lore and forbidden knowledge concerning various pre-Adamite beings and creations, some of extraterrestrial origin, who once ruled the earth and who anticipate doing so again”). Several stories do too little with the core idea of overreaching antiquaries who unwisely summon slumbering supernatural entities. But there are several noteworthy exceptions. The volume is neatly bracketed by ever-dependable Neil Gaiman’s witty imagining of Holmes’s first encounter with his archenemy Professor Moriarty (“A Study in Emerald”) and Simon Clark’s “Nightmare in Wax,” in which Moriarty gains possession of the Necronomicon, with amusingly ghastly and surprising consequences. The best of the remainder: a delicious battle of wits between Holmes and a Balinese beauty who pits herself against a man-eating demon (Steve Perry’s “The Case of the Wavy Black Dagger”); the combined efforts of Holmes and his sedentary, brilliant sibling Mycroft to rescue a sea captain cursed by an exotic stone carving (Brian Stableford’s “Art in the Blood”); John P. Vourlis’s nicely plotted tale of an entire village overcome by an unnatural sleeplessness (“A Case of Insomnia”); and F. Gwynplaine McIntyre’s stunning “The Adventure of Exham Priory,” an ingenious reworking of the familiar incident of Holmes’s misadventure at the Reichenbach Falls. Other notable contributions are by genre veterans Barbara Hambly and Tim Lebbon and less familiar authors Steven Elliott-Altman and James Lowder.

A few clunkers aside: a very entertaining volume.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-345-45528-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2003

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A kind of Holden Caulfield who speaks bravely and winningly from inside the sorrows of autism: wonderful, simple, easy,...

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME

Britisher Haddon debuts in the adult novel with the bittersweet tale of a 15-year-old autistic who’s also a math genius.

Christopher Boone has had some bad knocks: his mother has died (well, she went to the hospital and never came back), and soon after he found a neighbor’s dog on the front lawn, slain by a garden fork stuck through it. A teacher said that he should write something that he “would like to read himself”—and so he embarks on this book, a murder mystery that will reveal who killed Mrs. Shears’s dog. First off, though, is a night in jail for hitting the policeman who questions him about the dog (the cop made the mistake of grabbing the boy by the arm when he can’t stand to be touched—any more than he can stand the colors yellow or brown, or not knowing what’s going to happen next). Christopher’s father bails him out but forbids his doing any more “detecting” about the dog-murder. When Christopher disobeys (and writes about it in his book), a fight ensues and his father confiscates the book. In time, detective-Christopher finds it, along with certain other clues that reveal a very great deal indeed about his mother’s “death,” his father’s own part in it—and the murder of the dog. Calming himself by doing roots, cubes, prime numbers, and math problems in his head, Christopher runs away, braves a train-ride to London, and finds—his mother. How can this be? Read and see. Neither parent, if truth be told, is the least bit prepossessing or more than a cutout. Christopher, though, with pet rat Toby in his pocket and advanced “maths” in his head, is another matter indeed, and readers will cheer when, way precociously, he takes his A-level maths and does brilliantly.

A kind of Holden Caulfield who speaks bravely and winningly from inside the sorrows of autism: wonderful, simple, easy, moving, and likely to be a smash.

Pub Date: June 17, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-50945-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2003

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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

FIREFLY LANE

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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