I confess to being a Sherlock Holmes addict and a Holmes purist. The Adventure of the Dead Rabbits Society is, I'm happy to say, pure Sherlock Holmes and an excellent addition to the Sherlock Holmes canon, one to which, I think, even Sir A. Conan Doyle himself would offer a hearty "Well done!" The crime is solved solely through Holmes' amazing powers of deduction (as it should be), and the überdetective's character, his personality, is depicted perfectly in this new adventure, sub-subtitled The Lost Reminiscence of John H. Watson, MD. This is the one and only Sherlock Holmes as we Sherlockians know him and love him.
I've read many post-Doyle Holmes stories and most I find unsatisfactory in one way or another. Even The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes (1952), written by Adrian Conan Doyle (Sir Arthur's son) and the great mystery writer John Dickson Carr, failed to grasp the style of the original stories, which are as much about atmospheric tone and the subtlety of Holmes' character as about mystery. Carraher's book is quite different, capturing as much as possible the flavor and writing style of the Doyle originals.
As those who are familiar with the Watson "reminiscences" know, there was a period of some years in which Holmes was believed dead, a victim of his battle with Professor Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls. During that time Holmes, fearful of reprisals by Moriarty's criminal gang should they learn he was still alive, "hid" in various cities on the European Continent. As we learn here for the first time, the great detective also, during that time in which he was believed dead, made his way on a tramp steamer to the New World, specifically to "the burgeoning metropolis" of New York City. While there he lived, and worked, under the alias of Simon Hawkes, a supposed Scotland Yard detective come to America to trace a lead for the "Ripper" crimes in London. It is a cover story, meant to explain Holmes' presence in New York as the Ripper crimes otherwise have nothing to do with The Adventure of the Dead Rabbits Society.
The title of the adventure comes from the name of the men's only club in which Hawkes (Holmes) obtains a room. The club is called "The Dead Rabbits Society", "dead" being 1893-New York City slang meaning "best," and "rabbit" meaning a man to be feared. The name therefore means the opposite of what it first appears to say.
Franklin Dunmore, a member of the Dead Rabbits, is assailed not once but twice and, now fearful for his life, he approaches Simon Hawkes for help in discovering who is trying to kill him, and why that someone wants to him dead. Dunmore suspects his wayward brother might be behind these attempts against his life (his brother wanting an inheritance) and so prefers to go to Hawkes rather than the police so as not to disgrace his brother and the family name. Hawkes can investigate privately. The detective reluctantly (at first) agrees and so is embroiled in a case of intrigue and murder that is not at all what it first appears to be, a case that takes the full abilities of Holmes' great deductive powers to solve. The ending is quite unusual for a Holmes story yet remains true to the Holmes character as defined by Doyle.
Carraher also captures the feel of New York City in the year 1893 perfectly, rendering it in such a way so that it is an apt substitute for London. All the historical facts feel right and ring true. I enjoyed reading of one woman's attempt to seek equality (women did not have the right to vote at the time) and of one doctor's attempt to help the poor emigrants living in the then-teeming tenements of the city.
In his introduction to the tale, Doctor Watson tells us:
"Holmes, as was the case with most of my writings regarding his work, was appalled by the finished product, roundly condemning the "romantic theatrics" contained therein when I presented the manuscript to him. He told me I'd produced more a dime novel than a scientific study of a criminal act and its resolution."
This was always the detective's complaint and, also as always, readers will still disagree with Mr. Holmes regarding Watson's writings. Those who love mysteries in general cannot go wrong in reading this wonderful book; all those readers who are true fans of the one and only Sherlock Holmes should pounce on this excellent achievement. "Here then is the lost Adventure of the Dead Rabbits Society as written by Doctor John H. Watson in 1908." Read it and enjoy -- Holmes is truly back and the game is afoot!