My Sherlockian library has a few books in it with the word "encyclopedia" in the title. It lends a certain authority to the work, and they come in handy now and then . . . some moreso than others, of course . . . but useful all the same. Each of them represents a good amount of work on the part of the author, and I've always appreciated those willing to do that work.
Christopher Redmond's new book Lives Beyond Baker Street does not have that word, "encyclopedia," in the title. It has a different word in its subtitle, "A Biographical Dictionary of Sherlock Holmes's Contemporaries." But whatever word best for this excellent reference work, it belongs on every Sherlockian's shelf next to all of those others.
If you arranged the contents of Lives Beyond Baker Street in columns next to the text of the original Sherlock Holmes Canon, it would make a fine annotated of sorts. If you pulled random folks out of its pages, you could create Holmes-and-historical-figure crossover pastiches for the rest of your life. And if all you want is to get a first look at some name you've seen in Doyle's original works or otherwise connected to Sherlock Holmes from his own period, well, check the index . . . they are surely in here.
The key points of eight hundred lives are compiled in Lives Beyond Baker Street all tied in some way to our friend Sherlock Holmes. Eight hundred, all from over a hundred years ago. It's a fascinating thing, and the sort of book you can dive into at any point in its pages and find someone you'll want to find out more about. As Chris Redmond writes in his introduction, the eight hundred capsule lives of his book are just starting points for future reading.
But these aren't just vanilla little summary bios. I've already learned several new facts about some of my favorites from Chris's write-ups of these folk. This is plainly a work that wasn't just conceived and compiled in the last year or so on a whim. And Sherlockiana will be all the better for it.
No matter what direction your Sherlockian path will eventually take you, I think Chris Redmond's Lives Beyond Baker Street is a book you might want to have on your bookshelf.