The Sherlockian by Graham Moore
Published by Twelve Books, an imprint of Hachette
One of the youngest Sherlock Holmes-enthusiasts ever to be inducted into the Baker Street Irregulars, Harold White is very much looking forward to his first gathering of Sherlockian societies, not least because there is a rumor that one of the most illustrious of Sherlockians has actually discovered Arthur Conan Doyle’s missing diary. Let me tell you, these people are SERIOUS about their Sherlock, so this is somewhere on par with confirmation of the existence of life on other planets, or a huge inheritance from a distant relative. Everything is going swimmingly, until said Sherlockian with the huge news is found dead in his hotel room, apparently murdered. Suddenly Harold is certain that he can solve the crime, using the methods of his oh-so-famous hero: Sherlock Holmes.
In alternating chapters, we are taken back in time approximately one century, to Arthur Conan Doyle’s life in the time after he killed off Sherlock Holmes. These days, Conan Doyle is nearly as hated as his character was beloved. Feeling that Holmes has begun to outweigh him in importance, Conan Doyle is trying to prove that he is still relevant as an author and a human being – and not just so he can sign some of his stories as Sherlock Holmes. When a letter bomb explodes in his home, Conan Doyle is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, one he is convinced is connected to the death of a young woman found murdered in a bathtub, a wedding dress on the chair next to her. Along with his less-successful friend Bram Sroker, who had not yet published “Dracula,” Arthur begins an investigation such as would have been undertaken by Holmes himself. Surely the creator is at least equal to the creation?
Oftentimes in a book which alternates storylines, particularly one with dual time periods, one of the stories is much stronger than the other. I can think of numerous books I think would have been better served by cutting out one of the storylines altogether. Such is not the case with “The Sherlockian.” Both stories were engaging and well-plotted, the measure of this is that I was disappointed at the end of each chapter that I would have to postpone following the current storyline, but my disappointment never lasted even half a page, as I was immediately thrust back into the other story. As ridiculous as this may sound, I also loved the chapter length. Each chapter was short enough to maintain suspense and great pacing, but not so short that nothing happened and I became annoyed. Nor did Moore engage in the manipulative technique of manufactured cliffhangers at the end of each chapter, which occasionally happens in suspenseful books with multiple storylines.
Not only was this an exciting, suspenseful, well-plotted story, it was also based loosely on real events. There was really an illustrious Sherlockian found dead by suspicious means, and Arthur Conan Doyle truly did work on cases after initially killing Holmes off – not to mention the fact that he really did feel almost oppressed by the character he created. Moore’s Author’s Note at the end of the book provides a great guide to what was true and what wasn’t. I got a better handle on the fervor of Sherlockian societies and particularly on Conan Doyle’s life, and his attitudes towards Holmes and his reception.
I thoroughly enjoyed Graham Moore’s “The Sherlockian” and have, in fact, already recommended it highly to a number of people, one of whom seems to be crediting it with releasing her from her reading slump. Highly recommended.
Nicole and I spoke with Graham as part of our What’s Old is New podcast on Sherlock Holmes, give it a listen!
Source: Publisher at BEA.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.