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A Study in Terror

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Xanadu, London, 1991
(price: 3.99; 162 pages)

(originally published in the USA 1966)

The blurb on the back:

Sherlock Holmes: the greatest fictional detective of all time!
Jack the Ripper: the most notorious undiscovered criminal in history!
Told by Dr Watson (who else?), this is the inside story of the most intriguing match in the annals of crime and mystery, brilliantly imagined by Sherlock Holmes' finest successor: Ellery Queen.
One of the earliest and rarest Holmes pastiches, now published in paperback for the first time, A Study in Terror inspired the classic film of the same name starring John Neville, Donald Houston, Anthony Quayle and Robert Morley - and it offers a startling answer to the ever-fascinating question:
Who was Jack the Ripper?

The film's a cracker, of course: one of the most cherished big-screen outings for Holmes, and well worth catching, particularly for Frank Finlay's definitive portrayal of Lestrade. The book, however, is dull, dull, dull.

The tradition with 'newly discovered' manuscripts is that you can top and tail them with an explanation of how they were found and so on; what you don't do is keep on interrupting. Ellery Queen does, insisting on commenting on Holmes' investigation, as though Holmes needs some help.

Similarly, if you're going to start with a shock statement, then at least keep it in character: 'You are quite right, Watson. The Ripper may well be a woman.' It's a fine statement, but implausible - Watson would never consider the possibility of a Jacqueline the Ripper.

But the problems are too many to be enumerated. It gets an extra pipe for the movie, and because it enables me to share this piece of trivia: Robert Morley and John Neville, who respectively portray Mycroft and Sherlock, had earlier played Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas in the 1959 film Oscar Wilde. Not that I'm saying there's any kind of gay subtext to any of this, of course.

Pipe rating:

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sherlock holmes