Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Study in Lavender--edited by Joseph R G DeMarco

A Study in Lavender is an anthology from Lethe Press in which each story has a gay or lesbian element. The overall tone of the collection wavers between gay fiction, literary and slash-with-pretentions  (which I mean in a positive way, as in: slash-but-at-a-more-professional-level).

Each story is well written, and that is pretty rare in any anthology. Anyone with an interest in Sherlock Holmes and homosexuality is going to need to add this to their collection. But in my opinion what was missing  from the line up was a story that was unambiguously about Holmes and Watson. (And possibly, a story where Holmes really pulls of a top flight piece of deductive reasoning. The mysteries tend to be of a 'if you realize the victim/missing-person/target etc is gay the solution is not all that hard to arrive at).

The typical pattern of the stories is that Holmes and Watson investigate a mystery involving an M/M (or, more rarely, an F/F or M/M/F) relationship. The story either ends when the mystery is solved, or has something of a epilogue about Holmes and Watson's own relationship.  These endings hit a range of notes from unrequited yearning, through pre-slash, to more conclusive HEA or separation. The structure works pretty well and several of the ending scenes are genuinely touching--but the structure does become repetitive.
  • The Adventure of the Bloody Coins by Stephen Osborne--Holmes fairly easily solves the murder of a rent boy at the Diogenes club. Slight surprise squicky twist ay the end.
  • The Case of the Wounded Heart by Rajan Khanna--Lestrade investigates the murder of a colleague and lover. I liked the characterization of Lestrade and having a story focus on a canonical character.
  • The Kidnapping of Alice Braddon by Katie Raynes--Holmes seeks a missing girl.
  • Court of Honor by JR Campbell--Holmes investigated a suicide (with shades of Turing's unfortunate fate) and determines its cause.
  • The Well-Educated Young Man by William P Coleman--This is rather long story in which Sherlock seems to play an almost peripheral role but which ends with a delightfully restrained romantic scene.
  • The Bride and the Bachelors by Vincent Kovar--A missing husband is found in an unexpected place.
  • The Adventure of the Hidden Lane by Lyn CA Gardner--A somewhat complicated manor house-style mystery.
  • The Adventure of the Unidentified Flying Object by Michael G Cornelius--A slightly overlong story give the simple structure of trying to work out why someone is causing a scene in Cleveland Street.
  • The Adventure of the Poesy Ring by Elka Cloke--Another story involved possible suicide, missing wills etc. As good as the rest but probably suffer for being later in the line up.*
*These are all good solid, entertaining stories but I felt like tropes of missing persons, suicide/murder, marriage and inheritance got a little over-worked.  I get that these are totally dominant Victorian tropes but so are pirates, original steampunk, daring 'Boys Own'-style adventure, tales of military bravery etc etc. Maybe I went in with the wrong expectations here.

The major exceptions to the common story pattern were two stories that didn't even exist in a 'verse where Holmes is real:
  • The Adventure of the Movie Never Made by Joseph RG DeMarco--This story has the most innovative premise, the making of a Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce movie. However the story seems overlong and, for me, it lacked spark.  I didn't see the need to make Nigel Bruce a rather unpleasant buffoon, like a dark version of how he played Watson.
  • Whom God Destroys by Ruth Sims--Kind of hard to describe. This story is about a nasty but fascinating character who interacts with Conan Doyle and has a serious chip on his pretty little shoulder. A bit wobbly in tone but it grew on me.

Other Reviews:
[Record #1]

    1 comment:

    Anonymous said...

    This is awesome! I want to get a hold of these stories :)