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Auswaks, Alex (editor and translator) - 'Sherlock Holmes in Russia'
Hardback: 224 pages (Dec. 2008) Publisher: Robert Hale Ltd ISBN: 0709080077

The dust jacket blurb might give the impression that this is a collection of linked short stories describing Sherlock Holmes adventures in Russia, which involve an implacable Russian Moriarty. That's the impression it gave me, but I was slightly misled (especially by the phrase "pursued by an implacable Russian Moriarty"). This is more or less cleared up in the introduction by George Piliev, which is a whirlwind description of the arrival of Conan Doyle's Holmes stories in Russia at the end of the 19th century. It seems that in 1906 several Russian magazines decided that rather than publishing dubious translations of the Conan Doyle stories they'd supply the demand for Sherlock Holmes by writing their own stories. This volume contains seven of these stories, two by P Orlovetz and five by P Nikitin. No information is given about the authors or when the stories were originally published.

Orlovetz's stories are quite engaging if you're interested in gold mining or stealing from the Trans-Siberian Railway but lack pace or any sense of being Holmes stories. Nikitin gives the impression that he had read a number of Conan-Doyle stories, as he incorporates variants of canonical plotlines into his stories. He'd obviously been impressed by The Final Problem as Holmes falls into a river and is never seen again in two of his five stories. It seems that Nikitin adjusted Holmes' character to fit in with Russian perceptions of the English; rather than playing the game for the game's sake, Holmes announces that being English, he's in Russia to make a profit.

This isn't really an essential volume for anyone but the most ardent Holmes or early 20th century Russian crime fiction completist, but it does serve as an interesting indicator of the allure of the Holmes name.

Rik Shepherd, England
November 2009

More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 1/11/2009 11:47