Lately I’ve been in a Sherlock mood! Although I’m not a Sherlock Holmes ‘purist’, I’ve enjoyed listening to Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories on Book CD or MP3, especially on long night-time drives. Many of the older BBC TV or other movie dramatizations of various Sherlock Holmes stories are excellent, and available at the library as well.
Recently, however, after enjoying the 2009 Sherlock Holmes movie, and having just had the pleasure of watching the second installment, I’ve stumbled across a wealth of Holmes spinoffs, remakes and tributes that I haven’t been able to resist.
The Sherlockian is Graham Moore’s debut novel, and tells two stories set in different time periods. It alternates between a fictionalized glimpse into Arthur Conan Doyle’s life and the life of Harold White, a modern-day ‘Sherlockian,’ and member of the Baker Street Irregulars, a kind of scholarly fan club dedicated to the Sherlock Holmes stories.
One of the long-standing questions about Conan Doyle is why he killed off his famous detective, only to bring him back to life in new stories 8 years later. Although the author kept a meticulous record of his life and work, the key diary that should explain this mystery has been missing for over 80 years. To keep the action rolling, Moore gives the reader (and his characters) several mysteries to be solved: in Arthur’s story, it appears someone may be trying to kill him, and he suspects there is a connection with the recent murder of a young woman. In Harold’s story, a man who claimed to have found Conan Doyle’s missing diary has been murdered at the Baker Street Irregulars’ convention. Both Harold and Arthur must try to apply Sherlock’s methods to solve the crimes, and stay one step ahead of the killers. The irony of basing their investigations on the exploits of a fictional detective (even by Arthur, Sherlock’s creator) is not lost on the characters, and even Bram Stoker makes an appearance as Conan Doyle’s mocking friend and sidekick. All in all, an enjoyable mystery with a bit of historic interest.
For a different perspective, or for one to read with your children, try the excellent series by Nancy Springer featuring a feisty and irresistible young heroine: Enola Holmes, the younger sister of the famous fictional detective. When her mother disappears, Enola must make her own way in a world determined to bind her in corsets and imprison her in a young ladies’ boarding school… luckily for us, she has other plans! Springer not only introduces a great character and involves her in page-turning plots, but also provides the modern reader a fascinating look at what life was really like for young women in late 19th century England. The first book in the series is The Case of the Missing Marquess.
If movies and TV are more suited to your mood, don’t miss the newer BBC TV series Sherlock, a modern-day incarnation featuring Benedict Cumberbatch as the brilliant and antisocial detective. Be warned: there are only two seasons (so far season one is available at the library) and it will leave you waiting breathlessly for more! The next installment is scheduled for Fall 2012, so keep an eye out.