Monday, January 23, 2017

The world needs Sherlock

"The world does not need Arthur Conan Doyle. The world needs Sherlock Holmes."
Spoken by Bram Stoker in The Sherlockian by Graham Moore

And so it would seem from the unending stream of books, movies and television shows about Sherlock Holmes, a fictional character who now, as in the 1890s, seems more real than his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle. (And since we have mentioned Bram Stoker, we should add that the world apparently needs Dracula, as well.)

Graham Moore's clever 2010 novel The Sherlockian tells not one Sherlock Holmes story, but two in alternating chapters. In one, Doyle decides he has had enough of Holmes and decides to kill him at Reichenbach Falls so he can move on to what to him seems like more important work. Virtually all of the rest of the English-speaking world, including his close friend Bram Stoker, objects. A few years later Doyle, with Stoker as his Watson, attempts to solve a murder case using the same techniques his most famous character employs. Someone is marrying young suffragettes, then killing them, and Scotland Yard is getting nowhere with the case. They don't even suspect the murders are related.

In the second story, a well-known Sherlock Holmes scholar has announced he has found Doyle's missing diary, written during the period before he resumed writing Holmes stories (and during that period in which that other story takes place). The morning before he is scheduled to reveal the contents of that diary at a meeting of the Baker Street Irregulars in New York City, his body is found in his hotel room. The diary is missing. The newest Irregular, Harold White, decides he will play Sherlock and solve the mystery, as well as discover the diary. His Watson is a young reporter named Sarah, who follows him to London, he in pursuit of a killer, she in pursuit of a story. Like the first story, this second one, while fiction, has some factual basis

By the end of the novel, these two stories come together, strengthening Stoker's case that the world does, indeed, need Sherlock Holmes.

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