Basil Copper – The Further Adventures Of Solar Pons (Pinnacle, 1979)
The Adventure Of The Shaft Of Death The Adventure Of The Defeated Doctor The Adventure Of The Surrey Sadist The Adventure Of The Missing Student
Blurb: "What we always knew about Sherlock Holmes when he supposedly fell to his death at the Reichenbach falls, we now know about Solar Pons — he is not dead; he has just been hiding." - St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Hark! Solar Pons Is Back. And the chase is on... join the hunt as this superlative sleuth pursues his quarry through the tangled webs of intrigue, crime and murder. Faithful followers of Sherlock Holmes and mystery lovers alike will delight in Basil Coppers compelling storytelling as he continues the grand tradition of August Derleth's unerring detective genius, Solar Pons. This literary descendant of Sherlock Holmes is the true heir to the incomparable Master ... so the chase will continue, as long as villainy and crime must answer to truth and, justice!
Up until now, think the only Solar Pons case i've read is August Derleth's The Adventure Of The Tottenham Werewolf, but a title like The Adventure Of The Surrey Sadist couldn't fail to grab my attention.
Pons operates from 7B Praed Street, London W2 (a crafty google reveals it's now a Paddington Doctor's Surgery, fact fans) where he's ably assisted by the Watson and Mrs. Hudson's of the piece, Dr Lyndon Parker, the friend and colleague who chronicles his adventures, and Mrs. Johnson, the obligatory doting landlady and general factotum.
Young Emil Rawnsley Fairfax of Clarendon Court, Oxhill, Surrey, has recently learnt of the death of his father, from whom he was estranged. Fairfax Snr. took umbrage at his son's choice of career - commercial artist - and disinherited him on the strength of it. Prior to that, he'd ruined both of Emil's serious relationships with women as he wasn't prepared to let the boy marry someone "unsuitable". Emil suffered a nervous breakdown as a result. He's genuinely disinterested in claiming the old man's fortune, so why has he contacted Pons? Because, it seems, both dead parents have risen from their graves! First Rawnsley noticed his mum's ghost staring at him from amid the gloomy rhododendrons, the next night his father puts in an appearance at the same spot. Both are dressed in the fashion of the late Victorian era, or as they were in Emil's childhood. The father's spectre has even taken to slipping handwritten notes under his door.
Punishment does not extend only to this life but to the afterlife also. And it is retrospective. You have got to be made to realise that, Emil. Your actions are abhorrent to your mother and myself. Justice will prevail.
With just 15 of the 40 pages to go - and Pons is sure to hog plenty of them enlightening us as to how he solved it: you know what ego-trippers these master detectives are - we're finally presented with some suspects among Colefax's fellow hotel guests, but which of them is "one of the most cold-blooded villains who has ever walked in shoe leather?" Could it be the "rat-faced" Bulgarian Nicodemus Serafis, who Parker is convinced, is wearing a damnably false beard? Perhaps it's Solomon Tappenden, the Hatton Garden jeweller - he's been acting shifty, what with furtively exchanging bags under the table. Surely it can't be Mr. Jervis Poynter, the amiable manufacturer from the Midlands?
Well, there are some run of the mill examples of mental cruelty for sure, but the story is disappointingly short on any physical manifestations of sadism, suggesting Dr. Lyndon Parker - who can outdo even Seabury Quinn's Dr. Trowbridge in the terminally incredulous stakes - was not adverse to sensationalising his friend's exploits. And what of the sleuth himself? The arrogance, deerstalker, pipe and Inverness cape are present and correct, but Pons is Holmes minus the screechy violin solo's and drug habit and can only come across as a bit boring in comparison. He also talks like "What say you to toasted teacakes and scones and strawberry jam, my dear fellow?" which you'd have to be Lord Probert to carry off with any kind of panache.
That said, The Adventure Of The Surrey Sadist is a pure pulp fun read and i had a much better time with it than comes across in this rancid review. You can find out more about the "successor to the legendary Sherlock Holmes" and download his Gazette from Solar Pons.com
From the first, I set myself against "literature"; the story was the thing, and no amount of style could persuade me to select a story that lacked genuine, unadulterated horror. For those who wanted something high-brow there was plenty.