I adore Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. I’ve confessed this before, so it’s probably not much to admit to here, but I’m naturally predisposed to look kindly on new Holmesian stories.
Wendy Fries is also a friend of mine, and I have loved her writing since I first read it. Her style is vivacious, funny and wickedly witty, and then she goes and stabs you right in the feels before kissing it better. I find her work exciting in a similar (though not identical) way to the work of Mary Borsellino, of whom I have also waxed lyrical.
Fifty short stories is a lot to write, so Wendy asked people to throw prompts at her. I threw, she caught, she turned the prompt into something hilarious and perfect. I’m a bit delighted with the acknowlelgement in the back pages.
Those confessions being made, I neither embellish nor lie when I tell you how very much I loved this book, The Day They Met.
Produced by well-known Holmesian publisher, MX Publishing, these 50 short stories all retell the meeting of Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson, in different ways, in different times. (Because surely, such a great friendship, which has endured and flourished in the 128 years since their adventures were first published, would always have been destined to begin, somewhere, somewhen.)
Each short story is a little delight: tightly written yet painting very clear, incisive pictures of the two men (and what’s more, the supporting characters) as they meet for the first time.
Some stories are filled with humour – I was caught giggling on the tram to work more than once – and others with a very human insight into loneliness, courage, need and pain. Holmes and Watson were, in Conan Doyle’s original stories, two lonely men in search of a companion and purpose, and Fries evokes those hidden, driving needs extremely well, in between the deliciously outré crimes and their discovered shared sense of humour.
Fries has a background in writing non-fiction – in health, high tech and personal finance – which means the hints of crime and strange cases carry a flourish of intelligence and knowledge that add weight to the airiness with which they are scattered into the tales. Adding to that anchor of plausible cases and causes for meeting, we have Fries’ undeniable love of language, which can result in something playful becoming surprisingly heartfelt, and of course the reverse.
The tales roll trippingly off the page – they are very spritely indeed – and are full of sly and clever references to canon, whether set in the 19th century or the 21st.
If I’m willing to admit to a fault to The Day They Met – and I’m reluctant to do so – it probably lies with the reader: the impulse to gobble down 50 short, sharp, rich treats at once is both glorious and a bit overwhelming. Anybody who has eaten an entire box of fancy chocolatier chocolates at a sitting will know the feeling. (Not that I have done any such thing. No. Not at all. Move along, there’s nothing to see here. Tra la laaaaaa).
Luckily, unlike wee chocolate treats, a book can be re-consumed. The Day They Met is beautifully built for this. If you have an inhuman constitution that can resist the read-at-a-sitting impulse, you’ll enjoy dipping in and out of the book as the mood fits. If you’ve bolted the boxful already, well, you’ll have the pleasure of revisiting this tome of treats at leisure, perhaps taking your time to choose the flavour of your adventure.
Shall it be this vintage piece set in 1883 where they meet arguing over who has the rights to a hansom cab; or that tale of a man with PTSD who needs a clever, understanding man to short-circuit the terrors invoked by an intrusive tannoy? This 1886 glimpse of Holmes and Watson as children, or that 2008 introduction to Watson’s propensity for terrible titles. This bittersweet morsel, or that tangy observation, or perhaps this faintly bizarre one that appears to contain a couple of nuts?
Whether a lover of original canon or someone new to the Holmesian fold through BBC Sherlock, Fries’ range of stories has something to offer you. There’ll be adventure, laughter, courage and even the solution of bizarre and cruel crimes, in 50 bite-sized pieces.
And always and forever, there will be the Great Detective and his Boswell by the hearth at 221b Baker Street.
Buy The Day They Met
- Sherlock Holmes and John Watson: The Day They Met: 50 New Ways the World’s Most Legendary Partnership Might Have Begun (Amazon.com)
- The Day They Met (Amazon.uk)
- The Day They Met (Book Depository)
- The Day They Met (MX Publishing)
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