Book Quote:

“Arthur [Conan Doyle] killed Sherlock Holmes by the light of a single lamp…. At this, the middle point of his career, Arthur was unquestionably England’s great composer of the mystery story…. There was a trick to mystery stories, of course, and Arthur wasn’t embarrassed to admit that he knew it. It was the same trick practiced by a thousand amateur parlor magicians and face-painted circus jugglers: misdirection.”

Book Review:

Review by Eleanor Bukowsky В (FEB 06, 2011)

The Sherlockian, by Graham Moore, is required reading for fans of Doyle’s master of ratiocination, Sherlock Holmes. Moore has a fine time going back and forth between his two protagonists. One is Doyle himself who, in 1893, was growing heartily sick of Holmes. The sleuth in the deerstalker hat had become a celebrity in his own right and had overshadowed his thirty-three year old creator. Why should Doyle despise a fictional character that brought him so much fame and fortune? One problem was that many of Holmes’s admirers believed that Holmes was real, and they were driving Doyle crazy with their letters and requests for help in solving petty crimes. Most outrageous of all, says Doyle, “My greater work is ignored.”

Protagonist number two is twenty-nine year old Harold White, a freelance literary researcher whose life is predictable and mundane. He receives a big boost when, on January 5, 2010, he becomes the latest inductee into the Baker Street irregulars. Harold is elated to at last be part of “the world’s preeminent organization devoted to the study of Sherlock Holmes.” White is a bit of a loner and socially awkward. He even attends the annual Irregulars’ dinner wearing his own deerstalker hat which “was by far his favorite possession.” This Princeton graduate is a Holmes prodigy, who knows the Canon so well that he can quote many passages verbatim. He is a speed-reader, as well, with a vast knowledge of literature.

What connection is there between Doyle and White? Both become involved in complicated quests. Seven years following Holmes’s “death,” someone makes an attempt on Arthur Conan Doyle’s life. Assisted by his close friend, Bram Stoker, Doyle follows a series of clues leading to a vicious serial killer. (Naturally, the inept members of New Scotland Yard are of little use.) White has a conundrum of his own. One of the foremost Sherlockians is found dead in his hotel room, and a much sought-after diary, purported to have been written by Doyle in 1900, has gone missing. White decides that he is best qualified to find both the killer and the diary, and he conducts his inquiries in the company of a persistent reporter named Sarah.

This novel is loads of fun, and some parts of it are historically accurate (be sure to see the Author’s Note at the end). Be aware, though, that since a number of plot points are rather implausible, you will need to suspend your disbelief quite a bit. Moore has a grand time mocking Doyle’s pomposity, priggishness, and male chauvinism, but he also showcases Doyle’s loyalty, sense of honor, and astute mind. Bram Stoker is an engaging and pretty sharp detective in his own right. The author entertainingly satirizes obsessive individuals who feel compelled to find answers to questions that torment them, even if they endanger lives in the process.

The constant switching from Doyle’s adventures to White’s is dizzying, and an attempt to give Harold a romantic interest never catches fire. White is smart and spunky but bland; it is hard to get too worked up about his fate. However, the narrative is filled with so many intriguing curve balls, including a subplot about fiercely dedicated British suffragists and their antagonists, that fans of cerebral puzzles will enjoy matching wits with Doyle and White to figure out whodunit and why. There is an eloquent passage towards the conlcusion about the changeover from gas lamps in London’s fog shrouded streets to the harsh glare of electric lights, symbolizing the transition from an era of romance and mystery to one of modernity. Moore implies that something indefinable may have been lost in the process.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 74 readers
PUBLISHER: Twelve; First Edition edition (December 1, 2010)
REVIEWER: Eleanor Bukowsky
EXTRAS: Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: More Sherlockian Fiction:

A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullen

The Art of Detection by Laurie R. King


Some Free Sherlock Holmes for the Kindle:

And a fun movie:

February 6, 2011 В· Judi Clark В· No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  В· Posted in: Facing History, Mystery/Suspense

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