Sherlock Holmes and the Underpants of Death by Chris Wood

Review by Chris Redmond

The six stories by Chris Wood that make up this paperback volume may owe something to the Sherlock Holmes of John Cleese in "The Strange Case of the End of Civilization as We Know It," or the Holmes of Michael Caine in "Without a Clue," but in balance they are probably more indebted to Beavis and Butthead. Every page is rich, if that's the right word, with slapstick action and toilet humour. It may be enough to note that the back cover promises revelations about "some of his less famous exploits, including the infamous drive by shittings of 1894."

The first of the six tales, the one that gives the book its title, is slightly based on The Hound of the Baskervilles; the other five make no pretence of being connected to anything in the Canon. However, there are plenty of allusions to such authentic details as three-pipe problems, Mrs. Hudson, Moriarty, Mycroft, and even Watson's military service (with the King's Own Anachronisms). The best recurring joke in the book — unless the reader truly fancies excrement in inappropriate places — is the way Holmes fawns on wealthy clients, caressing their feet when he is not actually picking their pockets.

Wood relies heavily on incongruous language, and sometimes manages to make it genuinely funny: "After a seeming eternity we arrived at our destination. Holmes raced out of the carriage, his every sense agog, aquiline hooter pulsating with the sea air and heady scent of clues." Aquiline hooter: can't wait to see that one enter the mainstream of Sherlockian discourse. However, and unfortunately, he can't carry it off for any length of time. Grammatical errors in the book must number in the hundreds, and the whole thing would be far funnier if the author had taken the trouble to imitate Victorian diction more closely (and get some details, such as the style of titles, correct).

It's not clear who is the intended audience for this book; teenagers, the principal audience for "turds" and "gigantic funsacks," would find it tedious, and grownups — most of all, grownup Sherlockians — would surely expect it done better. However, the author apparently has also perpetrated Sherlock Holmes and the Flying Zombie Death Monkeys, so there must have been some positive response to the first volume. Or perhaps I am the only reader who thinks "Moriarty hired a monkey trained to drop people's trousers" is not the last word in wit.