Darlene Cypser’s The Adventure of the Apprentice’s Coin is a two-fer: a solid Sherlock Holmes short story pastiche written in both the familiar first-person Watson narrative in which Conan Doyle wrote almost all the Holmes stories; and for the same low price of 99¢ it’s also written as a third-person omniscient narrator story. Actually, that might make it a three-fer!
In the story, the Great Detective, wounded from a knife attack, is brought home to 221b Baker Street with the help of a young boy. Doctor Watson, in his haste to help his stricken friend, barely has time to thank the boy for his help and sends him on his way. Holmes’ life hangs in the balance and in a bizarre coincidence, so does the fate of the young boy when he’s later accused of a crime.
The first-person story ably describes Watson’s concern for his friend and we get a real sense of the depth of the bonds between these two men, whereas in the third-person version we gain a real admiration for the boy, Jacky Moyer, who leaps to an unknown man’s aid, drags him to the street, convinces a cabbie to deliver the bleeding detective home and pays for it with a silver crown — a dear price for the lad that will prove doubly dear when his act of kindness lands him in jail.
My first thought at learning this Barnes & Noble Nook short story (also available at Amazon for the Kindle) included a first- and third-person story was that I would prefer the first-person story. But I almost prefer the latter. Cypser’s characterization of Jacky Moyer makes me wish she’d write several stories of the plucky lad’s adventures with Holmes.
Another touching aspect of this story involves Holmes himself, who must help clear the boy of the crime of which he’s accused, even though Holmes is gravely injured and even though his only reason to believe the boy’s story is the debt Holmes owes the boy. It’s nice to see a Holmes who doesn’t need logic or a sense of justice to motivate him, but a simple debt.