The Sherlock Holmes Stories of Edward D Hoch

Sherlock Holmes HochSherlock Holmes – you might have heard of him – and you’ve probably seen that there are one or two or thousands of tales of the great sleuth written since Doyle put his pen down for the final time. I’ve pretty much tended to ignore them all, as I still have only read a small portion of the originals. It would take something impressive to lure me to any of these pastiches.

Enter Edward D Hoch, author of over 950 short stories, and the reason that I subscribed to Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine for many, many years. Creator of many short story series, including my favourite, the impossible crimes of Dr Sam Hawthorne – as collected here, here and mentioned here, he wrote a number of Holmes stories over the years and they have been collected here – set throughout Holmes’ career and presented in chronological order. But do they match up to the originals or are they something different?

When I saw this book on Netgalley, I was more than a little excited. I love Hoch’s work, although it’s sadly under-reprinted (but see the bottom of the post for some fantastic news), so anything like this was completely unavoidable for me – and it’s a fantastic collection.

Hoch was able to contrive a clever, clued whodunit in a handful of pages and he does that over and over again here. The book starts off with a prologue that features a different character as the lead but then we’re into the normal style of story, narrated by Watson. And every one of the stories is a little mystery that the reader is effectively invited to solve before Holmes reveals the solution.

And there’s the difference between this and the original stories – you’re given the clues in advance to at least put you on the right lines for the solutions whereas Doyle, more often than not, would pull the solution apparently out of thin air. So if you’re looking for a slavishly faithful pastiche, then maybe this won’t be for you. But if you want a bunch of well-written, pint-sized mysteries to solve, then this certainly is for you.

There is another difference in the fact that there are a number of celebrity appearances, both Holmesian – Moriaty, Irene Adler and the Speckled Band – and real – Lewis Carroll and Jacques Futtrell, and a few other, more obscure, ones, such as Stephen Leacock – look him up. We also get a trip on the Titanic in probably the weakest of the stories – probably a bit too much going in the background. It demonstrates as well the danger of collecting short stories by the same author that were written years apart, as there are three stories that contain the same linguistic clue.

But these are niggles – this is a highly entertaining set of short stories from the master of the art. Highly Recommended.

My copy was provided by Netgalley and Open Road Media, the publishers. And the good news…

A number of collections of Hoch’s work have been released as ebooks from MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Media  – all of them were previously released years ago, but go for a huge amount on the second hand websites. Take a little care with the Simon Ark books, as the contents overlap somewhat, but there are some treasures here – not least, Leopold’s Way, collecting twenty two superb stories. I’ll keep you all updated as I go through them all. Oh, and Crippen and Landru have released the out of print More Things Impossible as an ebook. Hurrah!

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24 comments

  1. Oh, this really is *too* much. Here I am putting the finishing touches on a review of — that’s right, THE SHERLOCK HOLMES STORIES OF EDWARD D. HOCH — and an email pops up and tells me you’ve beaten me to the punch!

    I liked the collection. I agree the Titanic story is relatively weak, but I liked it because it paid Jacques Futrelle the respect he deserves as a pioneer of the genre and the selfless bravery he displayed on board the Titanic.

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      • The Thinking Machine often feels like a Sherlock Holmes knockoff. One of the stories even involves a murderous animal — it’s a ripoff of THE SPECKLED BAND. And IMO “The Problem of Cell 13” has been anthologized far too many times. But there’s an energy and humour to his stories that make them terrific reading even when they’re not at their finest.

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      • I won’t lie, it took me a couple of reads to warm up to “Cell 13”.

        As a complete aside, I did the e-conversion for the C&L e-book. I read it a couple of times for the purposes of quality control. Tough work, but quite rewarding – I’m glad to see you advertise it in this post.

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      • Just to clarify to other readers who don’t know what the heck you’re talking about. “C and L” refers to mystery publishers “Crippen & Landru” and Volumes 3 and 4 refer to the next books in the Dr. Sam Hawthorne series. Edward D. Hoch had several different series detectives, and all of them solved impossible crimes (I’ll be shocked if there isn’t a locked room mystery in the Holmes book), but Dr. Sam is the only one who ONLY solved impossible crimes.

        I hope Nothing Is Impossible: The Third Casebook of Dr. Sam Hawthorne gets released ASAP, too!

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      • Thanks for clarifying my shorthand – I’m looking forward to at least the fourth volume as I’ve got most of the stories, including all of volume 3, in the original Ellery Queens. It might actually be volume 5 until a new one for me comes along… and it’s been seven and a half years (!) since vol 2 came out…

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  2. I notice that on the Open Road web site, one of the blurbs used to promote the Edward D. Hoch books is “Edward D. Hoch is capable of writing a truly classic short story.”—Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.

    That has to be one of the biggest understatements in mystery literature criticism. You might just as well say “George Herman ‘Babe’ Ruth is capable of hitting a prodigious home run.”

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  3. The stories are highly entertaining and brilliant. A must reading for fans of Sherlock Holmes.
    As you have mentioned, the stories are well clued unlike most of Conan Doyle’s stories. Hence a reader can match wits with the detective and attempt to solve before the solution is revealed. However, in as many as 3 stories, there are clues based on SPOILER, and for one having no knowledge of SPOILER, these clues are meaningless.

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    • As I mentioned in the review, this will be because of the stories being written years apart from each other. And I’ve seem much more obscure cluing – The Finishing Stroke by Ellery Queen for example, requires a specific knowledge that only a small number of people would possess. At least in this case the examples only require a basic knowledge of the thing (I’ve edited your post for spoilers, btw) – it’s just a shame that so many stories in this collection require it.

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      • It is for this reason that I found the end of The Finishing Stroke by Ellery Queen a very big disappointment. I was excited throughout the book wondering what the clues would mean, but the end was a major let-down since most readers would not have the knowledge to understand the clues. I felt cheated.

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  4. I really don’t know why Crippen and Landru isn’t doing a better job promoting this, but…you know the long promised third anthology of Dr. Hawthorne stories? Nothing Is Impossible: The Third Casebook of Dr. Sam Hawthorne? You wouldn’t know this by visiting their web site, but that book is finally out. Apparently, sending e-mails out to previous customers and posting something new on your Facebook change is easier than updating a web site. If you go to Crippen and Landru and click on the Search option at the left, you can find the book by looking for “Nothing is Impossible.” You can either order the trade softcover for $19.00 USD or the limited edition hardcover (which Crippen and Landru calls “clothbound”) for $45.00 USD. The latter is in a numbered set of 175 and comes with a pamphlet which contains an additional unpublished Dr. Sam story.

    I look forward to reading the Puzzle Doctor’s review of this book…

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    • Well, when I can get a copy that doesn’t cost more to ship than the book itself… $25 dollars to ship to the UK on a $19 book? Seriously? Is it being flown over by albatross?

      I’ve reviewed the first six stories on the blog here – I’ve got them all in the original EQMM – and I’ll do the next lot when I get the chance to dig them out.

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      • Presumably, Crippen & Landru prefers readers to order directly from them than from Amazon, but eventually Amazon will get their hands on it. When that happens, I assume it will become easier for British customers to order it.

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    • It is too costly. I shall wait for an ebook edition.
      By the way, Eddiejc1, have you completed your translation of Spiral ?

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      • Actually, I have. Somebody glanced through it said it wasn’t too bad considered I don’t know French, but that my dialogue is a bit stilted at times. It’s once thing to figure out what a French speaker is saying, and it’s another to figure out the best way to say the same thing in English.

        I was impressed with “Spiral”, but I wonder if one of the things that impressed me is that it was easy to read. I’m turning my attention to “Le tigre borgne” and I know right off the bat that that book will be MUCH harder to translate than “Spiral.”

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