Lindsay Faye’s Observations by Gaslight is a collection of stories about a familiar detective which take an interesting stylistic decision as a common feature. The subtitle of the book is “Stories from the World of Sherlock Holmes” yet rather than featuring Watson as the narrator, instead chooses to have each tale told by a different individual.
Well-known characters such as Lestrade, Mrs Hudson, and Wiggins get stories to themselves. Also, some much less obvious points of view are used, resulting in a book that in addition to varying its content greatly shows off the talents of Lyndsay Faye.
The story by Lestrade is titled “Our Common Correspondent” and while the plot and mystery are entertaining enough it is the style and little moments that capture a reader. Throughout the story they have the wonder of experiencing Lestrade getting angry and making repeated commentary within the story which he regrets and strikes out himself.
At the same time, there are such touching instances as our dear inspector refusing to explain a conflict with Sherlock Holmes to Dr Watson, solely because he does not want to come between the two close friends. While this may or may not be the correct choice in a given situation, it most definitely demonstrates hidden depths to a character known for being a somewhat abrasive and mediocre figure when he appears in the original stories. The fact that Sherlock Holmes keeps most personal information to himself is discussed, with Lestrade even making light of the fact he learns the birthday of the man only within this tale.
The Gospel of Sheba is a definite reprint, having previously been previously released both solo as well as through an omnibus titled Bibliomysteries Volume 2. In it a librarian finds certain rare books slipping away, a mysticist society serving to provoke strange behaviors in those who interact with the titular object, and an assortment of epistolary notes and letters in addition to the story proper. It is an effective bit of storytelling to be sure, yet definitely not an exact match for Sherlock Holmes as written by Doyle.
While another excellent tale, this story represents a rather long one by the standards of short fiction. The topic of secret societies studying mysticism is not the norm for a Sherlock Holmes story, either. However Sherlock Holmes would go where the unusual crime was, and as a result many of the stories feature one appearance settings or subject matter, the most obvious being “Silver Blaze” yet many others featuring as well.
A truly wonderful touch is the section marked “About the Contributors.” While such a section in a normal anthology would talk about each individual author, this section instead deals with the characters whose point of view is used.
Overall, Observations by Gaslight is an excellent collection filled with wonderful variations on Sherlock Holmes stories. The fact all of these variations come from Lyndsay Faye helps to prove she is a true treasure, someone whose work we will be appreciating for decades to come. Easily recommended to fans of the author, or fans of Sherlock Holmes.
(Mysterious Press, 2021)