Fortunately the book has a brief introduction, by distinguished Sherlockian Susan Rice, that helps me understand what I have missed: Joe Fink's self-deprecating, owlish delivery of some of the worst puns and endearingly absurd narratives that even a veteran Sherlockian audience has ever experienced. Rambles like "The Tragedy of Tonga" and "A Piscatory Tale" (featuring that distinguished Victorian ichthyologist, Commander Richard Hugo Passwater) are amusing in print; they must have been cripplingly funny when delivered aloud to audiences primed for them (and in some cases, I suspect, primed with alcoholic beverages in particular).
There are 25 narratives in this book, dealing with various Canonical personages and incidents (some of them more than once; Fink seems particularly interested in the amatory life of Mrs. Hudson). Most of them start with some perfectly reasonable Victorian background, then gradually wander off into a sort of Finkian wonderland. The best ones wander back again just in time for a punchline that — by Sherlockian standards at least — might actually be taken seriously.
One is tempted to wish that the Sherlockian world had another Joe Fink (the original died in 2009). But there can be only one — only one Calvin "The Clamp" Calhoun (the greatest English garrotter of them all), and only one Joe Fink. What a good thing this book lives on.
Copyright © Chris Redmond 2012