Since the publication of the first Sherlock Holmes story in 1887, Holmes has captured the imagination of readers– so much so that when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle initially killed him off, readers clamored for more, eventually convincing him to resurrect the character. In modern day, Holmes’ popularity has remained high, with many books including either the detective himself or references to him, not to mention a recent movie series that reimagined Sherlock in a more steampunk inspired setting and two currently-airing television shows bringing Holmes and Watson into modern day.
Though it is never mentioned in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, many Sherlock scholars and fans have placed his birthday on January 6th. In celebration of this date and the fact that the early Sherlock stories were declared to be in the Public Domain in the U.S. just recently, this post collects some books that build on the Sherlock mythology directly and others that are not directly related, but will nevertheless captivate fans of Sherlock’s adventures.
Death Cloud by Andrew Lane – The first in a series of books about Sherlock Holmes’ teenage years, this books takes place during a summer break that he spends with relatives in the countryside. Set in 1868, the story introduces readers to a much younger Sherlock in an attempt to explain how he came to be the man in Doyle’s stories. This book covers his first investigation into a plague that seems to be sweeping through the town in which his relatives live. While the story takes place well before Holmes meets Watson, his brother Mycroft makes an appearance in this and later books in the series and there are many references to Doyle’s works throughout. If you enjoy this first book, there are five more in the series, Rebel Fire, Black Ice, Fire Storm, Snake Bite, and Knife Edge.
Secret Letters by Leah Scheier – When Dora discovers that Sherlock Holmes might be her father, she strikes off for London to find him and convince him to help her solve a mystery. Upon arrival, she learns that he has died, but rather than let this stop her, she decides to team up with another young detective to solve the crime herself. This is a fun mystery set on the periphery of Holmes’ world that will entertain those who want to move beyond the characters that Doyle created.
The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason – This is another series that is built on characters related to Holmes, in this case his niece, who teams up with Bram Stoker’s daughter to investigate a mystery in London society. Combining elements of mystery, fantasy and steampunk, The Clockwork Scarab will appeal to a wide range of readers and is the first in an intended series. It is likely to particularly appeal to fans of the recent movie adaptation of Sherlock Holmes as it shares a steampunk sensibility.
The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress – Another option for steampunk fans who are willing to move beyond the world of Sherlock Holmes to other mysteries is The Friday Society. Set in a steampunk version of Victorian London, this book follows three girls- a lab assistant, magician’s assistant, and a Japanese martial arts expert- who combine forces to solve a mystery. The book is light and action packed, perfect for those who are looking for a mystery romp and particularly those who enjoyed the recent Sherlock Holmes movies.
Ripper by Stefan Petrucha – Though completely unrelated to Sherlock Holmes, this is a story in a similar vein set in a steampunk version of New York City. Carver Young, a teenage orphan who is learning to be a sleuth, is convinced that recent serial killings in the city are the work of Jack the Ripper. He sets out to prove his theory with the help of his friends and, periodically, his mentor. The setting and the style of story will appeal to fans of Andrew Lane’s series, Sherlock Holmes and mysteries more generally.
Knightley and Son by Rohan Gavin – While this one won’t be released until the spring, Sherlock Holmes fans will want to be on the lookout for it. With his father incapacitated, Darkus Knightley has been trying to take over his job as a private investigator. Just like Sherlock Holmes, he assists Scotland Yard with cases and has a penchant for tweeds. The story combines action and mystery, and I personally am looking forward to checking it out.
Colin Fischer by Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz – If you are interested in a modern-day story about a high school student who idolizes Sherlock Holmes, look no further than Colin Fischer. This fun mystery is told from Colin’s point of view. As a teen with Asperger’s syndrome coping with his first days of high school, Colin feels out of place and adrift. Unlike his classmates, he actually feels more in his element after a gun goes off in the cafeteria, giving him a chance to use his observational and investigative skills to clear the name of one of his classmates and to find out who actually brought the gun to school. Colin is a worthy successor to Sherlock and a great option for those looking for a more modern sleuth.
I hope you’ll find something on this list to keep you entertained once you’ve finished the original Sherlock Holmes stories. Let me know in the comments if I have missed any other great options!
– Carli Spina, currently reading Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn