Aural Noir Review of the Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

March 19, 2010 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Aural Noir, Reviews 

Aural Noir: Review

The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock HolmesThe Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Edited by John Joseph Adams; Read by Simon Vance and Anne Flosnik, John Joseph Adams (uncredited)
18 CDs – 22 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: 2010
ISBN: 1441839070
Themes: / Mystery / Crime / Alternate History / Science Fiction / Horror / 19th Century / London /

“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” This famous Sherlock Holmes quote is the impetus which drives this intelligent, inventive, and at times irreverent compilation of Sherlock Holmes stories written in the last few decades. As John Joseph Adams explains in his introduction, his aim in compiling these stories is to explore the uneasy peace between the cold clear logic of the deerstalker-wearing, pipe-smoking detective and the unanswered, perhaps unanswerable mysteries which continue to thwart human investigation to this very day. While many of the stories miss the mark of this goal entirely, the collection as a whole succeeds in pushing Holmes in new directions while staying true to the spirit of Sir Arthur Conan Doyles’s original work.

The stories in this collection fall into one of three categories. First, there are the traditional mysteries. These are stories that, with but slight alteration, might easily have found a home among Conan Doyle’s own work. The best of these tales expand upon characters or cases mentioned in the original œuvre only in passing. Mrs. Hudson’s Case by Laurie R. King, for instance, features Holmes’s protégé Mary Russell as its protagonist and reveals the character of Holmes’s long-suffering landlady. Edward D. Hoch’s A Scandal In Montreal, meanwhile, reunites Sherlock Holmes with his sometime nemesis Irene Adler. As a whole, however, this category fits rather uneasily into the collection because, by and large, there is little in the way of “the improbable” in any of these stories. All are well-written and most are engaging; they simply miss the point.

The second category I would call historical, or pseudo-historical. In most respect these stories are similar to those of the first category, with one redeeming addition: Sherlock Holmes crosses paths with historical figures from the Victorian era. Stephen Baxter’s The Adventure of the Inertial Adventure sees our detective join forces with author of scientific romances H.G. Wells, while Tony Pi’s Dynamics Of A Hanging brings mathematician Charles Dodgson (better known as Lewis Carroll) into the Holmesian world. The highlight of this grouping, though, is The Adventure Of The Field Theorem by Vonda N. McIntyre, in which Sherlock Holmes investigates crop circles at the behest of none other than Arthur Conan Doyle.

The last category throws Sherlock Holmes–and let’s not forget Doctor Watson, through whose eyes we see most of these tales unfold–into genres as wide-ranging as alternate history, horror, and science fiction. Subjectively, I liked these stories best because they fall into genres which I most commonly read. Objectively, these stories succeed because they deliver on the promise of “improbable adventures.” The collection opens with a chilling tale by horror master Tim Lebbon, which unlike most Holmes stories is never intellectually resolved. The Singular Habits Of Wasps by Geoffrey A. Landis, perhaps my favorite story in the collection, puts a fascinating otherworldly spin on the mysterious murders of Jack the Ripper. Robert J. Sawyer’s closing story, You See But You Do Not Observe, pits Holmes’s intellect against the fermi paradox concerning extraterrestrial life. The collection is worth the price of admission for these entries alone.

Simon Vance carries the bulk of the narration, with Anne Flosnik reading only a few stories featuring female protagonists. Flosnik performs solidly in her few appearances. Simon Vance’s portrayal of Holmes and Watson is spot-on; the former speaks with a whip-sharp voice, while the latter lumbers along in a more lugubrious manner. He falls short only when narrating the few “New World” characters who figure in the stories, but these cases are uncommon and Vance’s accent isn’t off by much. John Joseph Adams himself narrates the collection’s introduction, as well as introductory passages to each story.

Whether you’re a fan of mystery, history, or something further afield, chances are high you’ll find something to sate your appetite in The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. I’ll venture out on a limb and say that visitors to this site will likely be most interested in the tales of speculative fiction. I assure you, in particular, that you’ll not be disappointed.

Posted by Seth Wilson

Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine podcast

March 9, 2010 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Audio Drama, Aural Noir, Online Audio 

Aural Noir: Online Audio

Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine PodcastHere is a terrific find for fans of mystery and crime tales! Hosted by Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine‘s editor, Janet Hutchings, comes a new podcast the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine podcast! It features:

“Monthly readings and dramatizations of stories by the world’s leading writers of suspense chosen from the magazine’s archives. The full range of the genre is represented in these riveting audio renditions, from the drawing-room mystery to urban noir—including police procedurals, private-eye tales, psychological suspense, and locked-room and impossible-crime stories.”

I’ve been listening to these for hours today. The audio dramatizations are actually pretty good. The short stories tend to be very solid too (and are mostly read by their authors). Sound quality varies though and sometimes the recording level volume is set far too low. Additionally, the proof-listening is occasionally very shoddy (with repeated lines remaining unedited). The latest episode (#7) has three stories all based on the same newspaper article. The results are mixed, but I really like the idea of stories based around a story seed like that. In fact, it reminds me of something John Joseph Adams and David Barr Kirtley were talking about in a recent Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. They mentioned the John W. Cambpell story seed that lead to the writing of Isaac Asimov’s Nightfall and Robert A. Heinlein’s Orphans Of The Sky. Two SF stories that are both very different and very terrific.

My favourite Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine podcast episode so far is #5, Dear Doctor Watson, a Steve Hockensmith short story. Its a kind of Sherlockian pastiche set in the Victorian West. It’s protagonist a kind of amateur Sherlock Watson team that’s only half-hampered by being illiterate and in Montana. Dear Doctor Watson is both fun and well read by two narrators.

I truly hope to see the “Ganelon” stories by James Powell and the “Black Widowers” tales by Isaac Asimov showing up in future episodes. They’re the absolute tops!

Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine - September 1956Episode 1: Cut! Cut! Cut!
Based on a story by Ellery Queen; Adapted by Ed Bogas; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 12 Minutes [AUDIO DRAMA]
Podcast: Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine podcast
Podcast: August 2009
Ellery Queen receives a phone call from a murder victim in this clever play involving a witness of another species. First published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine September 1956 issue.

Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine - November 2001Episode 2: Groundwork
Based on the story by Neil Schofield; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 25 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Podcast: Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine podcast
Podcast: September 2009
A nosy neighbor alerts police to suspicious digging in the garden next-door—and she isn’t the only one to get an unexpected comeuppance. First published in EQMM in November 2001.

Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine - June 2003Episode 3: The Talking Dead
By Melodie Johnson Howe; Read by Melodie Johnson Howe
1 |MP3| – Approx. 27 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Podcast: Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine podcast
Podcast: October 2009
A TV writer goes missing, leaving her show’s star without a script and opening up a perfect scenario for murder. In this fourth installment in her series of Diana Poole mysteries, former Hollywood actress Melodie Johnson Howe takes a penetrating look at the off-stage life of a TV idol. First published in EQMM June 2003.

Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine - February 1953Episode 4: A Lump Of Sugar
Adapted from a story by Ellery Queen; Adapted by Ed Bogas; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 9 Minutes [AUDIO DRAMA]
Podcast: Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine podcast
Podcast: December 2009
Ellery Queen returns in a case involving a cryptic dying message. First published in EQMM in February, 1953. The story later appeared under the titles Murder In The Park and The Mystery Of The 3 Dawn Riders.

Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine - February 2007Episode 5: Dear Doctor Watson
By Steve Hockensmith; Read by Steve Hockensmith and Mike Willtrout
1 |MP3| – Approx. 36 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Podcast: Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine podcast
Podcast: December 2009
A pair of Old West cowboys try to prove they’re worthy of joining a detective agency by retrieving an incriminating letter. But things are not all they appear to be in Missoula, Montana, circa 1890… First published in the February 2007 issue of EQMM.

Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine - May 1976Episode 6: The Problem Of The Locked Caboose
Based on the story by by Edward D. Hoch; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 27 Minutes [AUDIO DRAMA]
Podcast: Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine podcast
Podcast: January 2010
The solving of so-called “impossible crimes” is the hallmark of Edward D. Hoch’s series character Dr. Sam Hawthorne. In this episode, the New England country doctor is on board a night train when a body is discovered in its locked caboose. First published in EQMM in May, 1976.

Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine - March/April 2007Episode 7: Say That Again, The Old Story and Wheeze
By Peter Lovesey, Liza Cody, Michael Z. Lewin; Read by Peter Lovesey, Liza Cody, Michael Z. Lewin
1 |MP3| – Approx. 73 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Podcast: Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine podcast
Podcast: February 2010
Three stories (Say That Again by Peter Lovesey, The Old Story by Liza Cody, and Wheeze by Michael Z. Lewin) that take their lead from a single newspaper article provide an entertaining look at how a common creative impetus can take the imaginations of different writers in wonderfully different directions. Includes a short interview with the authors, all leading writers of suspense, recorded at the 2009 Bouchercon World Mystery Convention.

Podcast feed:

http://eqmm.podomatic.com/rss2.xml

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

Posted by Jesse Willis