Did you know that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote parodies of his own famous detective? That authors like Neil Gaiman, Laurie R. King, P.G. Wodehouse, and Stephen King have spent much of their time devoted to the greatest detective of them all? For The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes (Vintage, $25), Otto Penzler, proprietor of The Mysterious Book Shop in New York City, has tracked down eighty-three stories featuring Holmes, written by some of the world’s greatest mystery authors, including Doyle himself. Penzler, who has edited The Best American Mystery Stories series since 1997, has assembled fifteen Edgar Award winners, five Grand Masters of the Mystery Writers of America, and myriad card-carrying members of the Baker Street Irregulars; these are crack mystery writers, and a sterling set of Sherlockians.
Zachary Thomas Dodson’s first novel is a bibliophile’s dream: gilded pages, cut edges, thick paper, hand-drawn maps, natural history illustrations, and beguiling other-worldly diagrams introduce a narrative equally rich and ingenious. Bats of the Republic: An Illuminated Novel (Doubleday, $27.95), starts in 1843 with Zadock Thomas leaving Chicago on a mission to deliver a letter to a general in Texas. But he is sidetracked—literally—by a sudden flock of bats. Then it’s three hundred years later. Paranoia rules the Earth and another Thomas, Zeke, has inherited a letter and many mysteries . . . By turns adventure, science fiction, and epic—or maybe all at once—this novel is riveting to read, gorgeous to hold.
Dan Jones marks the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta (Viking, $27.95) with a narrative as suspenseful and colorful as any of the dynastic feuds recounted in The Plantagenets and The Wars of the Roses. In the third installment of his riveting saga, Jones, who has also produced and hosted the multi-part docudramas Britain’s Bloodiest Dynasty and Secrets of Great British Castles, returns to 1215. While the Magna Carta is held in high esteem today as the model for, among other documents, the American constitution, it was originally a peace treaty between King John and the landed barons fed up with his wars and taxes—and it fell apart within months of its confirmation. To muddy its sterling reputation further, the Carta—an early example of dry, technical legal writing—wasn’t initially one coherent document, but a hodge-podge of charters, “a collection of promises extracted in bad faith from a reluctant king,” Jones notes. Yet somehow those promises were made good, the king was held to his own laws, and Jones once again reminds us why the middle ages are so fascinating.