Sixty stories enter. One story leaves.
About Sixty: Why Every Sherlock Holmes Story Is The Best has been a book at war with itself. Not as in "Civil War," which generally just has two sides. No, About Sixty has so many competitors coming at each other, from so many angles, to prove each of the sixty Sherlock Holmes tales deserves to stand atop the heap of its defeated fifty-nine foes.
And by the time we get to "The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax," Thierry Saint-Joanis is bringing the entire country of France into the battle for story superiority. It is the first story in About Sixty with an actual anthem, written to the tune of the Marseillaise, to play as it enters the fray. And what is the French way to say "The game is afoot!" -- well, even that is included, and if the final battles of this tournament were being held in Paris instead of Las Vegas, Thierry might just get "Carfax" the title belt just on national pride alone.
But a dark cloud is descending upon the arena, and with it, Diane Gilbert Madsen conjuring the power of "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot" to stamp out its competition. But the tale's Sherlock Holmes is in a weakened state, and that definitely lowers the case's chances to last long against healthier foes.
"His Last Bow: The War Service of Sherlock Holmes" would promise to be one of the healthiest of those, but Thomas Drucker gets "Last Bow" to take a more cerebral attack. A Euclidean something is brought to bear here, but the little gray cells of this wrestling fan are far too low in census counts to fully digest. About the time I'm starting to get it, Socrates and Plato are invoked, and my brain, simple with weariness, starts to wander and my eyes look to the program . . . will some bruiser come in next to toss this egghead?
The opponent Leah Guinn introduces is not a muscle-bound hulk, however, but the dangerous power of an unwise choice of lover. And that means "The Adventure of the Illustrious Client" has come to toy with our affections. Leah makes it personal from the get-go, and there is advantage in that. And "Illustrious Client" was always a stand-out among the scuffling sixty, with a problem for Holmes that touches the heart of anyone who has seen someone they care about fall under a malefactor's power. It makes this tale a top contender -- it's motivated!
With "Illustrious Client," the tournament has slipped into its final phase -- The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes combatants. And the heart of so many of these competitors is really starting to show. Some have exhibited great staying power, even in the face of fresh new entrants.
Eleven stories left to enter the ring . . . and one is my personal favorite. Get ready for a rumble of a weekend!