The Venerable Tiger is a Sherlock Holmes written by Sam Siciliano and published by Titan Books. Siciliano continues to utilize his own character, Dr. Henry Vernier, as the narrator in his contributions to the pastiche installments to the Sherlock Holmes legacy. I guess he doesn’t care much for Arthur Conan Doyle’s Dr. Watson. Vernier is also explained as being a distant cousin of Holmes. He is married to one of the few female physicians of Victorian London.
As Vernier arrives to visit Holmes at 221 Baker Street, he encounters a distressed woman on the verge of fainting. It turns out that Isabel Stone has come to engage Holmes in a search for family jewels that are in the custody of her eccentric, miserly step-father. Grimbold Pratt resides in a dilapidated estate with various examples of wildlife, including a tiger and a wolf. Holmes and Vernier endure a rather hostile visit from Pratt and decide to finagle an invitation to spend some time on the property to see if the inheritance can be found. Of course, a murderer lurks among the other guests, which does helps make the story more interesting.
Siciliano chooses to include some echoes of a much more famous story in the original Doyle canon. I will resist the urge to spoil too much by revealing which story is being used as the inspiration here. I think readers of the original Doyle canon will recognize the reminders. It takes a very long time in this novel for the first body to drop. The story feels pretty slow, and it takes place mostly on this isolated estate. I don’t necessarily mind an effort to flesh out the characters, but I was starting to lose my patience with this effort. It does get a little more interesting, however the twist and subsequent revelation just didn’t feel all that surprising. Vernier’s wife is much more of a presence in Siciliano’s entries than Watson’s, and that does provide an interesting dynamic. I actually rather like the addition. Vernier also seems to be much more of a nervous sort than Watson, which could be a little exasperating, but I sort of appreciate the effort Siciliano puts into making his narrator more distinct from the more familiar chronicler of Holmes’ exploits.
The novel just didn’t leave that much of an impression either way. I would describe it as a mediocre entry into the massive collection of Sherlock Holmes pastiche works. Hopefully Siciliano can just write a story where he gets to the real action a little quicker and avoids a more direct correction to Doyle’s original tales unless he is actually writing some kind of sequel.
Next up on the not so carefully planned reading list is a new author to me. I will become acquainted with The Girl Who Drank The Moon by Kelly Barnhill.