Cover Image: Observations by Gaslight

Observations by Gaslight

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Member Reviews

Delighted to include this title in December’s Novel Encounters, my regular column highlighting the month’s top fiction for Zoomer magazine’s books section.
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All of these Holmesian stories are great, but I was most excited to see more of Irene Adler, the only woman who could match Holmes!  (As a teacher, I like to see strong female characters represented in books.)  If you like Sherlock Holmes, read these!
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What a fun read! If you wish there were more Sherlock Holmes stories, here you go. Lyndsay Faye presents six stories as if Henry Wiggins collected other people’s accounts of Sherlock Holmes and compiled them into this volume. Each story contains a mystery - some quaint, some alarming. Along the way, new views of Holmes and various supplemental characters are fleshed out. The stories are written with the sensibilities of a century ago, which is refreshing. The whole collection is refreshing and impressivly clever writing. 
I was provided an advance reader's copy from #NetGalley for my review. #ObservationsbyGaslight
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The first Sherlock Holmes pastiche stories were published before Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote his last story about the famed detective, and the trend isn’t likely to end any time soon. Observations by Gaslight is author Lyndsay Faye’s latest outing to Victorian London. This time, her stories feature narration, not by the trusty Dr. John Watson as they did in her previous books, The Whole Art of Detection and Dust and Shadow, but by secondary characters that longtime Holmes fans have grown to love: Irene Adler, Inspector Lestrade, Stanley Hopkins, Mrs. Hudson, and others. Their stories are told through diary entries, letters, and in the case of Mrs. Hudson, through recipes and lists. Each story features a mystery of some kind, though not all are a matter of life or death, and that’s as it should be. Not all Holmesian characters are meant to be following criminals down dark alleys or engaging in hand-to-hand combat.

As with any collection, the reader will prefer one story over another. Adler’s mystery of the stopped clocks, for example, has a jaunty tone that is far more engaging than Lomax’s quieter mystery, though Adler’s saccharine adoration for her husband may get on the nerves after the first dozen pages or so. But that’s a minor drawback when it comes to seeing The Woman square off against Sherlock Holmes one more time, though in far different circumstances from the original ‘Scandal in Bohemia’.

Lestrade’s story has a deeply personal edge to it, delving into the history of a character who is often the butt of Holmes’s jokes. And while Faye’s story has no real effect on the official canon, it’s always interesting to speculate about a character’s background. There is the occasional morose edge to Lestrade, and Faye develops a heartbreaking story about why that is so, and also why Lestrade joined the London police in the first place.

Mrs. Hudson’s story is entirely domestic as she ponders her longtime lodger and his relationship with Watson, and how morose Holmes will get without his friend or a case to occupy his mind. She bemoans the excellently cooked meals that go untouched, which reminds her of the ingredients she needs to purchase for the next few days’ meals. Mrs. Hudson’s mystery is the lightest, most homebound of them all, which is fitting for her character and her place in the world. After all, even if it’s not strictly canonical, if Mrs. Hudson were to leave Baker Street, we all know that England would fall.

The most intriguing parts of Observations by Gaslight are not the mysteries, however. It is the observations the narrators make regarding Holmes and Watson, to a lesser degree. John Watson might be aware of (and comment upon) Holmes’s dramatic tendencies, it is fascinating to see how others observe (or not) these tics, and what they think of them. Adler, for example, finds Holmes’s melodrama endearing, while Lestrade finds it irritating at best. Hopkins hardly notices at all.

Lyndsay Faye has written many other Holmesian stories for her own books, as well as for numerous anthologies, so it’s no surprise that she has the Victorian writing style down pat. Each story has its own voice and feels as though it could have been pulled from a Victorian-era diary. Authors of Holmes pastiche usually aim for that nineteenth-century feeling, but not all of them pull it off. Faye nails it every time, which gives her stories a wonderful sense of authenticity.

Whether one is looking for the further adventures of Sherlock Holmes (albeit from a slight distance), or just looking for some engaging Victorianesque stories to read on a rainy day, Observations by Gaslight is sure to please.


Thank you to NetGalley and Penzler Publishers for providing me with a free ebook in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion.
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Lyndsay does it again! This was a wonderfully framed book of epistolary stories regarding Sherlock Holmes, written and “collected” to show his character through the feelings of some of the more minor people who inhabit the original stories.   There were lovely turns of phrase; Lyndsay writes with such a great ear for the period descriptions and dialogue. I think any Sherlock Holmes enthusiast would enjoy this book. While there are mysteries in each vignette, the tales are more character studies of Sherlock than tales of solving mysteries. I enjoyed her ideas regarding these minor characters, as well! A very satisfying read.
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Lyndsay Faye is well-known in the mystery fiction world. She dedicates this collection to another mystery great, Otto Penzer of The Mysterious Bookshop. So, her credentials are superb.

This title is a collection of six stories. Each features the viewpoint of someone known to Holmes and his world. For example, the first story has Irene Adler in “The Adventure of the Stopped Clocks.” Other stories are told by Mrs. Hudson and Inspector Lestrade while a couple are by characters less known to me including Stanley Hopkins and A. Davenport Lomax.

The conceit for the book is that these materials were discovered in a deposit box. The reader is to believe that they have now been made available.

Those who enjoy extending their Sherlock Holmes experiences will enjoy this collection. I recommend it.

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher. All opinions are my own.
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Observations by Gaslight was the perfect antidote to a cold blizzardy day, so comforting and homey.  The six short stories within are told in an epistolary fashion which I adore and from varying perspectives of those around Sherlock Holmes such as Irene Adler, Inspector Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson.  The most creative are grocery lists and telegrams.  Amazing what can be gleaned from a few sentences!  The brief character explanations in the back of the book are spot on from what I know of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's writing.  Author Lyndsay Faye has a clever way with words and vernacular, incredibly engaging, riveting, witty and wondrous.  It seems she derived such pleasure from writing in different voices.

Each character's writing is unique.  Irene Adler's is playful and full of intrigue, Henry Wiggins and Meggie's story is resplendent with atmosphere and accents, Lestrade is pragmatic with hints of jealousy; Stanley Hopkins writes with gratitude and admiration; the Lomax family corresponds with affection and Mrs. Hudson, who knows Sherlock Holmes better than anyone, writes with motherly intuition and care.

The stories themselves are all splendid.  But I do have my favourites which are those of Inspector Lestrade (Miss Milhemina Sparks and "fergiveness"!) and Mrs. Hudson (recipes!).

Sherlock Holmes fans ought to scoop this up.  Though what I had always envisioned of these characters was sometimes challenged, I enjoyed the book thoroughly.  To me the only Sherlock Holmes will always be Jeremy Brett so he was on my mind when reading this and absorbing his quirkiness and eccentricities.

My sincere thank you to Penzier Publications and NetGalley for the privilege of reading this supremely arresting book.  I am so glad I did!
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Lyndsay Faye is a master of pastiche. Her foray into the canon of Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective,  is top notch. We hear from Sherlock's friends, for despite being antisocial and aloof, he makes a great impression on those around him. So great to hear from Irene Adler, Mrs Hudson, but also Higgins, Lomax, and Hopkins. Faye humanizes Holmes, and does through by the device of each story being taken from a letter, diary, or telegram. 

Superb! 5.0/5 stars
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"A new collection of Sherlockian tales that shows the Great Detective and his partner, Watson, as their acquaintances saw them.

Lyndsay Faye - international bestseller, translated into fifteen languages, and a two-time Edgar Award nominee - first appeared on the literary scene with Dust and Shadow, her now-classic novel pitting Sherlock Holmes against Jack the Ripper, and later produced The Whole Art of Detection, her widely acclaimed collection of traditional Watsonian tales. Now Faye is back with Observations by Gaslight, a thrilling volume of both new and previously published short stories and novellas narrated by those who knew the Great Detective.

Beloved adventuress Irene Adler teams up with her former adversary in a near-deadly inquiry into a room full of eerily stopped grandfather clocks. Learn of the case that cemented the lasting friendship between Holmes and Inspector Lestrade, and of the tragic crime which haunted the Yarder into joining the police force. And witness Stanley Hopkins’ first meeting with the remote logician he idolizes, who will one day become his devoted mentor.

From familiar faces like landlady Mrs. Hudson to minor characters like Lomax the sub-librarian, Observations by Gaslight - entirely epistolary, told through diaries, telegrams, and even grocery lists - paints a masterful portrait of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson as you have never seen them before."

I've been on a bit of a Sherlock Holmes adjacent kick this year, there Observations by Gaslight by the author of Jane Steele is just what I've been looking for!
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I have read a couple of reviews of Lyndsay Faye’s short story collection entitled “Observations by Gaslight.”  Each of the reviewers raved about these Sherlock Holmes pastiches.  I have read through the “canon” more than once and have read many non-canon Sherlock Holmes stories these past 50 years…and, although Faye writes very good stories I do not catch even a whisper of Conan Doyle’s efforts.  So I very much appreciate NetGalley giving me the chance to read “Observations by Gaslight” but cannot give it the “5-star” review that I would have loved to…
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I really loved Lyndsay Faye’s previous Holmes novel, Dust and Shadow, so I was excited to see her writing in the world of Sherlock Holmes again. (Apparently there is another short story collection, which I will need to track down!) The premise of this collection is that a number of letters and diary entries about the great detective, penned by people other than Dr. Watson, have been unearthed and are being published together. 

The Adventure of the Stopped Clocks, written by Irene Adler 

Irene Adler’s diary entries about her return to London. I love the teasing, bantery rivalry-turned-friendship the two of them have. No resentment, as some depictions of their relationship might portray it, and no sexual tension, as other depictions may show. They have a healthy sense of respect for each other, both clearly delight at having someone as clever as themselves to spar with, and there’s an affection that comes from finding a kindred spirit. We also get the benefit of Irene’s keen mind being aimed directly at Holmes, and her insights into his behavior and character are illuminating. 

The Song of a Want, written by Henry Wiggins 

This story is in the form of a letter written by a former street urchin who encountered Sherlock Holmes at a very young age, assisted with a case, and had his life transformed as a result. This tale acts as an origin story for the Baker Street Irregulars and shows a heartwarming first-hand account of Holmes’s kindness toward the children living on the streets of London. 

Our Common Correspondent, by Inspector Geoffrey Lestrade 

A diary entry by Inspector Lestrade, one of Holmes’s more frequent police collaborators. From Lestrade’s point of view, we see that the police detective is a good deal more observant than Holmes gives him credit for – but even as Holmes is disparaging of Lestrade and drives him up the wall, we also see the (begrudging) respect the two have for each other. This story gives Lestrade a three-dimensional character that, to the best of my knowledge, we never really see in the Holmes canon. 

The River of Silence, by Inspector Stanley Hopkins 

A POV from another member of Scotland Yard, just after his promotion to Inspector. Unlike Lestrade, Hopkins is new to working with Holmes, so we see a different take on him, from a relative outsider who is keen to work with him.  

The Gospel of Sheba, by A. Davenport Lomax 

Sublibrarian Arthur Lomax is a friend of Dr. Watson’s who stumbles into a mystery of the occult and needs expert help to get to the bottom of it. From his point of view, we see a different side of Holmes and Watson’s relationship than we usually get from Watson himself, and a more intimate view of either of them than could be glimpsed by a true outsider. 

A Life Well Lived, by Martha Hudson 

The elderly landlady reflects on her famous lodger, frets about his lack of appetite, and seeks his help in solving a mystery. Mrs. Hudson clearly takes pride in caring for Holmes and Watson and being a part of their little family, and seems to know them better than almost anyone (aside from each other.) 

All in all, a delightful little collection from one of the best authors currently playing in the Holmes sandbox.
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Excellent collection of stories from the points of view of secondary characters in the Holmes Canon. Lyndsay Faye is in top form here. Every Sherlockian will love this book.
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I think it’s time for me to simply accept that I won’t like Sherlock Holmes-like stories unless they follow in the traditional Holmes and Watson format. I don’t particularly care for the observations of these other characters, to be honest. I tried to give this one s chance, but nothing really appealed to me.
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Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of Observations by Gaslight.

I enjoyed the author's Jane Steele so I was pleased when my request was approved.

I enjoy new stories set in the world of Sherlock Holmes so I was eager to read this.

Sadly, Observations by Gaslight didn't pull me in as I hoped.

Maybe I'm just not in the right mood for this right now but I found the epistolary nature of the storytelling distracting; the scenes long and drawn out and it took too long to get to the point.

The writing was good and the Victorian setting, tone and atmosphere just right, but I wasn't feeling it.
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Lyndsay Faye can always be counted on for quality Sherlock content. A recommended first purchase for all fiction collections.
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