REVIEW: The Whole Art of Detection by Lyndsay Faye

*4 Stars

I first came across Lyndsay Faye's work in 2012 after reading The Gods of Gotham, the first in her Timothy Wilde series, and completely fell in love. Her writing wrapped itself around me and fully transported me to mid-19th century New York City in a way that few historical fiction books can accomplish. Accurately capturing the dialogue of these classic characters is one of her strongest skills and sets her apart from other historical fiction authors. Her newest anthology is no exception, and I jumped at the chance to review this one.

The Whole Art of Deception is a collection of Faye's original short stories based upon the canon of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes mysteries. The anthology is broken into four sections: Before Baker StreetThe Early YearsThe Return, and The Later Years. This division allows the reader to really get a full perspective of Holmes' and Watson's characters, particularly the stories that take place before the two met when each solved mysteries on their own. I thought that the story An Empty House was quite heart-wrenching, but gives a powerful glimpse of Dr. Watson's profound grief after the death of his wife Mary. 

Overall, the variety of stories presented was great! A handful of them were in the form of diary entries from both Holmes and Watson. The entries from Holmes were particularly insightful as they give a look into his mind's inner workings and how he views those around him, especially Watson. I gained a better understanding of the degree and strength of their friendship, which is an area at which Faye excels. While accurately mimicking Doyle's writing style, she manages to capture how much these two frustrate and irritate one another while still displaying how true their friendship really is. A story that stands out is a retelling of the Hound of the Baskervilles but from Sherlock's perspective as he is called away from the main action in the original. There are many little tidbits for those who are serious fans of Doyle's canon.

While I haven't read all of Arthur Conan Doyle books, I am a fan of the Sherlock Holmes character in his many different forms from tv to film to books with Benedict Cumberbatch's portrayal being one of my favorites. His is the image I had in my head as I read through each story, and I think it helped increase my enjoyment overall. There was a good mixture of story composition types as some were longer and others were mere snippets while some stories were either complex or a more straight forward deduction. The simplicity of the stories really stood out to me though, in a positive way. Faye focuses more on the cases and character quality than trying to recreate a perfect, historically accurate setting that many times winds up bogging down a story with excessive details.

The anthology format makes this collection easy to pick up and put down at a leisurely pace without the feeling of fragmentation. Many of these stories have been published in other places, but it's nice to see all of them together and with the addition of two new tales. This one is highly recommended for fans of either Lyndsay Faye's previous works or fans of Sherlock Holmes.

*I received this book as an advance reader copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.