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The Detective Appears.
on 16 July 2017
This is another one of those books that is hard to review as the main character has become so large that he has stepped of the written page and almost become real, is real to so many people. Reading this I had to try and shrink all the media back until all I had left was the written word before me, to try and imagine I was in a different world at a different time, and that no-one had ever heard the name of Sherlock Holmes.
The book is a slight one, but serves as a fitting introduction to a character who stands out almost immediately, and without overlooking things I found Watson to be an equally fascinating creation in his own right, although a much of what he says of himself is played down.
At the same time, the book itself becomes a snapshot of a different century, a London that has long gone but is still familiar in all the small ways.
The story itself sees an ‘unlucky’ Dr John Watson trying to find a place for himself after returning to England following injury and sickness has invalided him out of the army medical core. Finding accommodation in the capitol to be a little more than he can afford he is introduced by a mutual friend to another in the same situation, the slightly unusual Sherlock Holmes. Although Watson recognises there is a strangeness to Holmes he is attracted to the man’s observations and eccentricities and the two end up sharing rooms at 221B Baker Street.
Holmes, it would seem is a consulting detective, spending all his time learning bits and pieces from countless disciplines in order to make himself not just good, but one of the best in the field, something that combined with his mind make him excellent. He is aware of his genius, but does not feel the need to boast about it, more than happy to let others take credit for his work. It would seem as long as a few people, like Watson know and accept the truth then he is happy.
Even so, it seems as though he is getting bored of what he is doing, very rarely seeing the need to leave the house to investigate, but when he is presented with a more than interesting case and with a little cajoling from Watson he begins to investigate what becomes their first case together. The mystery is that of a dead body in an empty house, with no sign of violence, but a message written in blood on the wall in another room brings opens a mystery that seem almost impossible to solve…
It goes without saying that Holmes manages to solve it and in an entertaining style. Conan-Doyle is a great storyteller, keeping the reader enthralled and bringing them back again and again so that the pages seem to fly by! The world of which he is writing is modern to him, so there are some lovely touches that help open the world to another time for us.
The resolution to the story is satisfying, although it might be considered slightly annoying to watch Holmes start to work it out, but not reveal everything until he talks Watson through it at the end.
There is an unusual set up in that we get the murder and mystery, see it virtually resolved, then get thrown back in time to another continent as we are shown the events that led up to the murder, before having Holmes and Watson back to wrap it up. It is an interesting device to use, but it does come across a quite a break, snapping the reader out of the story and then back in again. I will not deny that the story as presented is interesting, but it seems an odd way of going about it.
The revelation itself is a good one. It shows that things are not as clear cut as they might have seemed and the sympathies of the reader (well this one) were not where I would have thought they would have been.
There is a little bit of a rather neat wrap up, but it did not detract from the story too much.
Most importantly you can see why Holmes and Watson were to become the iconic figures they deserved.