Review: The Sherlockian by Graham Moore

Picture London, December 1893. The city is in mourning and angry at the man who killed a remarkable man. Sherlock Holmes is dead, killed at Reichenbach Falls by his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle. Doyle is amazed that people have responded as if Holmes, the character who he honestly hates, was a real person.

Jump ahead in time to 2010. The Baker Street Irregulars, a group of Holmes devotees, have gathered in New York for their annual get-together. The highlight this year is to be a presentation by Alex Cale. He has announced that he found the missing diary chronicling the years between when Doyle killed Holmes off and brought him back again in The Hound of the Baskervilles. Unfortunately, Alex is killed before he can make his presentation, and our main character, Harold, the youngest and newest Irregular, decides he needs to solve the case, using all he has learned from Holmes along the way. He is helped, or hindered, along the way by Sarah, the love interest, Watsonish reporter who certainly has her own motives for wanting to solve the case.

London 1900
London circa 1900

In The Sherlockian, both stories, the modern mystery and Doyle’s missing years, are presented in alternating chapters. To be honest, I got more caught up in the turn of the century story. Doyle, with the help of Bram Stoker, sets about solving the murders of two young women, cases Scotland Yard doesn’t seem to be overly concerned about. He is at times overly confident in his detecting ability, sure that he can outshine his own character, but at other times seemingly disgusted with the whole situation. Stoker acts as his companion, and to be honest I wish he had been featured more.

I’m a Holmes fan but not a fanatic. I think that part of the reason I enjoyed the story was simply the Holmes connection, and that’s also probably the reason I was drawn tot he Doyle portion of the story. It takes place in a more romantic time, London is being lit up with electric streetlights instead of the gas ones. It’s still foggy and dark and mysterious.

“Did you really think he was dead and gone when you wrote ‘The Final Problem’? I don’t think you did. I think you always knew he’d be back. But whether you take up your pen and continue, heed my advice. Don’t bring him here. Don’t bring Sherlock Holmes into the electric light. Leave him in the mysterious and romantic flicker of the gas lamp. He won’t stand next to this, do you see? The glare would melt him away. He was more the man of our time than Oscar was. Or than we were. Leave him where he belongs, in the last days of our bygone century. Because in a hundred years, no one will care about me. Or you. Or Oscar. We stopped caring about Oscar years ago and we were his bloody friends. No, what they’ll remember are the stories. They’ll remember Holmes. And Watson. And Dorian Gray.”

I could add “And Dracula.”

I have to say though, that while the story kept me reading, delighted in some ways, in the end it left me unfulfilled. Yes, both mysteries were solved, and it’s not that I need a resolution where the bad guy is punished or the big reveal is made, but Harold’s and Sarah’s actions during his final scene just made me say “That’s it?”

Maybe in the end it was the jumping back and forth that made the book less than stellar for me. Moore did a good job with it and the two plots tied together nicely, but I couldn’t really lose myself in either storyline. Or maybe if it says Sherlock, I want to fall in love and if I don’t I’m disappointed.

You can purchase The Sherlockian on Amazon or from Indie bookstore.

3½ out of 5 stars

Category: Mystery & Detective

Published December 1, 2010 by Twelve
350 pages

Book source: Personal library

11 Comments

  1. Kay

    I still haven’t read my copy of this book yet. Just not the right moment to pick it up. Have you watched the new Sherlock Holmes on Masterpiece Mystery? I liked the whole premise of bringing him into the present day. At least I liked the two I’ve seen so far. I think the next ones will be when Masterpiece Mystery begins again in May of 2012.

  2. I read this a few months ago and while I didn’t love it, I did enjoy it… Instead I have been working my way through the Doyle series. That was because of a combination of this book and getting my ereader. 🙂

  3. Hiya Carol – I enjoyed your review. I have what you might call a recurring fondness for Holmes, but I’m also not a fanatic. I can’t quite decide whether or not I want to track down this book. It sounds like it would be right on the borderline for me. Mysteries are not a high percentage of what I read, so I prefer that they be something fairly special.

    I really do like how you included the photo of 1900 London. Some real-life to juxtapose with the fiction.

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