When I think of the character Sherlock Holmes, I think tension, quick quips, and above all, a very logical plot. The stories flow and move along in a way that always makes me feel as though all of life can be explained as long as you observe those around you. Graham Moore captures a bit of that feeling in THE SHERLOCKIAN and spins a tale full of characters that make his first book a fun read.
In 1893, Sherlock Holmes dies, or at least his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, writes his death to finally divest himself of a character he has come to loathe. The public’s reaction to Holmes’s death is more than Conan Doyle can stand --- a few of his most fanatical readers hurl things at him on the street and others make threats on his life --- and he becomes even more adamant that Holmes will not return. During this period, Conan Doyle becomes involved with a real crime investigation when a fan sends him a letter bomb and he decides that Scotland Yard is incapable of handling the situation correctly (or at least to his standards). He takes it upon himself to solve the crime with the assistance of his friend, Bram Stoker. As he points out, he created the world’s greatest detective; he should be capable of solving this crime just as efficiently as an invention of his imagination. Along with Stoker, he embarks on the investigation and records it all, good and bad, in his journal.
In 2010, scholars of Sherlock Holmes are gathering at a conference to hear about a major discovery involving a missing journal of Conan Doyle’s --- the contents of which have always been a topic of interest and discussion among the group. When the prestigious and well-known scholar who is to announce the discovery turns up dead in a hotel room, Harold White, another Sherlockian scholar, decides to take a page from Conan Doyle’s Holmes character and investigate the murder. Following clues right out of the Sherlock Holmes tales, White takes his obsession with the imaginary detective to new heights in an attempt to find a murderer.
Told interchangeably between 1893 and 2010, THE SHERLOCKIAN jumps between Conan Doyle and White both trying to solve crimes beyond their capabilities and both trying to channel Holmes to find an end to the mysteries in front of them. I worried that I would find the style tedious, but I found myself getting pulled into each story simultaneously since Moore deftly parallels the action taking place in both stories. Although there were a few times that I couldn’t wait to get back to the other mystery, at no time did I feel that I was missing anything.
Moore is obviously an ardent fan of both Sherlock Holmes and his creator. He does a good job of capturing the time period in 1893, even including some new scientific discoveries such as indoor lighting, which adds a nice authentic touch. Even if you’re not a fan of Conan Doyle, Moore will incite some interest in reading a few of his stories. He doesn’t overwhelm the reader with information about Holmes, but does include enough to make you want to see if you own a copy of THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES or A STUDY IN SCARLET.
I always say I’m not a mystery person, and in truth it’s not a genre I read often, but lately I’ve found myself reading more of these novels. While I’m not ready to say I’ve become a diehard fan, I do have to admit that the genre is growing on me thanks to authors like Moore who are able to capture a moment in time and bring the reader with them on the journey.
Reviewed by Amy Gwiazdowski on November 3, 2011