A simple pastiche, or observations on sibling rivalry?
The Adventure of the Silver Birches centres on a plot to devalue the pound and collapse Britain’s economy. With Sherlock off bee-keeping in Sussex, Lestrade calls on his brother Mycroft to aid the investigation. What follows is a rapid journey through the streets and establishments of London, before culminating in the grounds of a grand country house.
The novella is littered with wonderful description. The style of writing itself gently emulates that of Conan Doyle, with its use of detailed imagery – ‘the sodden, soaking dripping mass of humanity’ – setting us off down the road with the character of Lestrade to kick-start the mystery and bring us closer to the hero of the tale: Mycroft Holmes.
It is a brave man who decides to write a story about the brother of quite possibly the greatest fictional detective that was ever created; particularly when that brother is an overweight, uncharismatic and slightly lazy version of his better-known sibling. Dickinson refers to Sherlock both in the narrative and from within the confines of Mycroft’s own thoughts, to the point where Baker Street’s most famous detective seems to haunt the story like a ghost, right until the end, where his true involvement in the tale is revealed. These references subtly reveal Mycroft’s own insecurities, and we must question whether it is Mycroft comparing himself to Sherlock, or the writer?
Readers of Conan Doyle’s work will enjoy The Adventure of the Silver Birches, which successfully works as a pastiche, hinting at Conan Doyle’s enjoyably-effusive descriptions of people, places and memories. Even for those unfamiliar with Conan Doyle the novella stands alone, and we are left feeling quite sympathetic towards its protagonist. For it seems he is just as much in awe of his younger brother as we all are.
— Vanessa Holmes (@vanessawrites)