Tuesday, February 08, 2011

The Sherlockian by Graham Moore

The Sherlockian by Graham Moore

Completion Date: January 26, 2011
Reason for Reading: Counts for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.
In December 1893, Sherlock Holmes-adoring Londoners eagerly opened their Strand magazines, anticipating the detective's next adventure, only to find the unthinkable: his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, had killed their hero off. London spiraled into mourning — crowds sported black armbands in grief — and railed against Conan Doyle as his assassin.

Then in 1901, just as abruptly as Conan Doyle had "murdered" Holmes in "The Final Problem," he resurrected him. Though the writer kept detailed diaries of his days and work, Conan Doyle never explained this sudden change of heart. After his death, one of his journals from the interim period was discovered to be missing, and in the decades since, has never been found.
Or has it?

When literary researcher Harold White is inducted into the preeminent Sherlock Holmes enthusiast society, The Baker Street Irregulars, he never imagines he's about to be thrust onto the hunt for the holy grail of Holmes-ophiles: the missing diary. But when the world's leading Doylean scholar is found murdered in his hotel room, it is Harold - using wisdom and methods gleaned from countless detective stories - who takes up the search, both for the diary and for the killer.
During the month of January I finally started the Sherlock Holmes series by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I have read one of the books in Laurie King's series, but knew I really had to settle down with the originals before getting carried off to the spin-offs. That being said, I heard good things about this book and my library had it in ebook format, so I decided to give it a try. While I did like it, though, I found myself really wanting to read more in the original series. It also reminded me that I really need to read Agatha Christie one of these days.

This book takes place in two time periods. Half is told in 2010 about a Sherlock Holmes enthusiast who is trying to solve the mystery of the missing diary of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It had claimed to have been all ready found, but then the person who found it was found murdered and the diary was no where to be found. Harold White thinks that because he reads lots of mystery novels he is the best person for the job, so he launches an investigation with the help of one of Conan Doyle's descendants and a struggling reporter.

The other half of the book is told from the perspective of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This is the real reason that I read the book. I was curious about the author behind the successful series and thought it would be fun to see a fictional take on him attempting to solve his own mystery. During this time he has gotten tired of Holmes and is attempting to move away from that period of his life, but people are determined that he continue on. They are constantly sending him letters about their own mysteries, but he ignores them. Then, he receives a bomb that destroys his office and suddenly he thinks he is Sherlock Holmes. Only, he isn't, and he quickly learns that things are not quite as easy as Holmes makes them out to be.

In the modern period, people are very curious about why Conan Doyle first kills off Holmes and then drastically changes his mind and brings him back again. While the reader is let in on what happened during that period, the journal that would reveal it to Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts is the one that is missing from his collection. It adds to the allure wondering what did happen during that period. On the one hand, they want to find the diary, but on the other hand it would be like something was lost if it was found.

I have discovered that I quite love Sherlock Holmes as a literary character, but I have to admit that I was rather surprised by how people reacted back then when Conan Doyle killed him off. That should happen more often in the world today. People caring that much about books to go into mourning when favourite characters die. It just goes to show you how much has changed in 100 years. Moore wrote Conan Doyle as rather humourous and I enjoyed that many of his scenes included Bram Stoker. They played off each other rather well.

Overall, I liked this book, but I still like the originals better and am looking forward to reading on in the series!

Cross-Posted at Historical Tapestry.


  1. Can you believe I've never gotten around to reading Sherlock Holmes? I adore the movies and anything similar but have simply never gotten around to reading them. This sounds like a cool book too.

  2. this book is on my wish list already..my favorite Holmes book will always be Hound of the Baskervilles..and my favorite "movie Holmes" is Basil Rathbone..whenever I read Holmes I hear his voice!

  3. I added this one to my wish list based on a single review but I keep looking at my wish list and wondering if I should remove it. I've only read one Sherlock Holmes book, so I don't know all that much about the series. I enjoyed it, though, and keep telling myself I need to read more. I think you've convinced me this one's worth a read.

    Say, Kelly, did you ever write to me? I haven't seen a note but sometimes I bury things. :)

  4. Ooh, this sounds good! It's on my list now. Thanks!

  5. I've always love Holmes (and all of the spin-offs of the character)! And Conan Doyle was a pretty fascinating character in his own right with his interest in fairies and his association with Houdini. Another book added to the list!

  6. This one just came up in my audiobook queue at the library but I think I might hold out and read the paper version. I've never read any of the Sherlock books/stories but did pick up a giant collection over Christmas. Maybe soon! Sounds like despite your liking the originals better there are some gem parts in this one.

    Re: Agatha. Just listened to And Then There Were None by her (my intro) and really enjoyed it! You should read her, too...

  7. But think how sad everyone was when various Harry Potter characters were killed off. I think the emotion is still there, if authors would only serialize more regularly.

  8. Sounds good! It's true, when readers mourn a favorite character being killed off, you know its a good book.

  9. Tink: I only got around to Sherlock Holmes in January... I had hoped for more in February, but it didn't happen!

    Pat: It was good. I hope you like it!

    Bookfool: It is worth it. It made me want to read the classics more. :)

    Darla: Hope you enjoy!

    jenclair: I enjoyed learning more about Conan Doyle. :)

    Trish: I might save Christie for 2012... Simply because I have lots of 'projects' this year. We shall see...

    Jenny: I know... I am not a Harry Potter fan, soo...

    Naida: Exactly!


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