Friday, June 10, 2016

"I Can At Least Promise You a Mystery, and Perhaps Even an Adventure"

"The Great Detective."
By Delia Sherman (born 1951).
First appearance:, February 17, 2016.
Novelette (45 pages).
Online HERE.
"When Sir Arthur Cwmlech’s home is robbed and the Illogic Engine–his prize invention–stolen, it is only natural that he and his clever assistant Miss Tacy Gof consult with another inventor, the great Mycroft Holmes, about who has taken it. But it is really Mr. Holmes’ Reasoning Machine who they are there to see, for it is only fitting for one automaton to opine on a matter concerning the fate of another of its kind. This charming story by award-winning fiction writer Delia Sherman is a delightful romp set within an a slightly altered version of one of our most beloved literary universes."
Not only does the Illogic Engine go missing but also just about everybody near and dear to Tacy Gof—who, undeterred, sets about tracking them down, with the timely assistance of a wounded Army doctor recently invalided home from the war in Afghanistan.

Main characters:
~ Sir Arthur Cwmlech:
   "He was perhaps twenty-two, tall and knobby, with longish light hair and small, round spectacles. His low-crowned hat was crammed to his ears and his coat was buttoned askew. His careless appearance suggested Bohemian tendencies. The carriage’s obviously home-made shaded fog lights revealed a mechanical bent. Not an artisan, not with that coat. A gentleman mechanic, then—possibly an inventor."
~ Miss Tacy Gof:
   "Somewhat to her own surprise, Tacy shared neither Sir Arthur’s optimism nor his admira-tion of the big man’s creation. Accustomed to mechanicals from the cradle as she was, she found herself regarding the Reasoning Machine with a discomfort that surprised as much as it distressed her."
~ Mistress Angharad Cwmlech:
   "Although the automaton was indeed haunted by the ghost of Sir Arthur’s noble ances-tress, she considered the name bestowed on her by the popular press ['the Ghost in the Machine'] a slight upon her dignity. Tacy had heard her curse an inventor who had addressed her thus in terms that might have distressed him very much, had he been able to understand Welsh. Tacy was relieved when Angharad contented herself with a haughty lift of her molded chin. 'I am Mistress Angharad Cwmlech of Cwmlech Manor. And I believe I am as human as yourself'."
~ Mycroft Holmes:
   "He loomed over Sir Arthur—who was himself a tall man—and was easily twice his girth. Tacy judged him to be perhaps thirty, with a heavy, handsome countenance dominated by a hawklike nose and pale eyes that gave back the light of the Smith lamp like pearls."
~ Reasoning Machine:
   "The Reasoning Machine’s fine brows lifted in a parody of surprise. 'Engines are, by defini-tion, logical. An Illogic Engine, therefore, cannot exist'."
~ Inspector Gregson:
   "This is an investigation, miss, not a tea party. Sir Arthur, if you will show me the work-shop, I can get on with my job."
~ Swindon:
   "He was a stately man who, Tacy suspected, felt as if he’d come down in the world. Today, in the wake of a theft, and with police in the house, he had something of the air of an early Christian martyr surrounded by lions."
~ Dr. John Watson:
   "As the doctor summoned the waitress, Tacy studied him. He had a pleasant face, she thought, with a firm mouth, though his expression was a little stern. His skin was weathered by the fire of a foreign sun and his mustache was touched with grey, making his age hard to determine."

- Delia Sherman's charming fantasy writing has attracted notice: Wikipedia HERE and the ISFDb HERE; her webpage is HERE, and the prequel to "The Great Detective" is HERE.
- Ms. Sherman isn't the only author to give in to the urge to pastiche Sherlock Holmes; at least one former movie actor did it (HERE), and so have dozens of other writers (HERE); and let's not forget TV's cybernetic version of The Sage of Baker Street (HERE).

The bottom line: "It’s hard to guess how smart the machines are, but a good rule of thumb is that they’re always smarter than you think."
Daniel H. Wilson

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