Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Titanic Tragedy: Review

The Further Adventures of Sherlock Homes series put out by Titan Books is a rather hit or miss affair. There are several very strong entries in the series and then there are those that would need a great deal of suspension of disbelief to accept them as part of Holmes lore (The Veiled Detective, I'm looking at you--and, to a lesser extent, The War of the Worlds). The series reprints older pastiches such as The Ectoplasmic Man by Daniel Stashower, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Holmes by Loren D. Estleman, and The Giant Rat of Sumatra by Richard L. Boyer as well as presenting newer works like The Man from Hell by Barrie Roberts and The White Worm by Sam Siciliano. The Titanic Tragedy by William Seil, first published in 1996, falls somewhat in the middle--both in terms of printing date and excellence. 

Two things attracted me to this title initially. One: I love looking for good new stories about Sherlock Holmes. Two: The Titanic story has fascinated me for years (well before the movie ever came out...). The combination seemed to promise a real winner.

[Brief pause for a commercial break. You know--it occurred to me while I was letting this review percolate that if all the fictional people who have sailed on the Titanic and lived to tell the tale had actually been there and done that....well, none of the real, live people who survived the tragedy could actually have made it. There wouldn't be room on the survivor roll call. Just a thought. And now back to your regularly scheduled review.]

Seil takes Holmes and Watson, who have retired to Sussex and bees and to Piccadilly and historical novels respectively, and sends them on another adventure. Holmes is called upon to render one more service to the Crown in the form of making sure a set of secret submarine plans make it safely across the Atlantic to the U.S. Navy. He naturally request the companionship of his faithful friend Dr. Watson. The two accompany Miss Christine Norton, government agent and daughter of The Woman, aboard the fateful voyage of the luxurious ocean liner, the Titanic. Joining the travelers are, of course, the historical figures known to be on the doomed ship--Captain Smith and various crewmen, Jacques Futrelle, the detective fiction writer; Mr. Andrews, the ship's designer; and Mr. Ismay, the chairman of the White Star Line--but the company also includes the brother of Professor Moriarty, who has an agenda of revenge and mayhem of his own, as well as various anarchists and foreign spies. Some of these villains are after the plans and some are out to sink the great liner. Holmes and Watson will have their hands full fending off various attacks, discovering a murderer, and tracking down the plans after they go missing. And they have to do it before the Titanic encounters an iceberg and fulfills her infamous destiny.

This is an interesting and fairly well-done Holmes story. A bit of the punch is taken from it because we know the ultimate ending--and we're fully confident that our heroes will not go down with the ship. Seil does a very good job adopting Doyle's style and voice and the main characters, for the most part, behave and sound as we expect. He manages to capture the friendship between the two men and he even allows Watson to see through the main disguise which Holmes employs. There is a bit of doubt about the reactions of the ship's crew--but I think we can reasonably suspend our disbelief on a few counts. Seil also introduces us to a rather charming young boy named Tommy who idolizes Holmes and manages to have a brief scene with the Great Detective before boarding a lifeboat. I did find myself wishing that Holmes had taken Tommy somewhat into his confidence and employed him as an onboard Baker Street Irregular. That would have been grand. In genera, an entertaining story and one of the better entries from the mid- to later pastiches included in this series. ★★ and 1/2.

Since this story involves the tragic encounter with the iceberg, this counts for the "Death during a natural disaster" category in the Mystery Reporter's Challenge.


Anonymous said...

I quite like the sound of this, thanks Bev - there is a terrific audio play from Big Finish that treads a similar path, THE CASE OF THE PERFIDIOUS MARINER that si well worth a listen by the way!

fredamans said...

I am sure the hubby would enjoy this one. He's the Sherlock fan.