Wednesday, February 2, 2011
The Sherlockian by Graham Moore
At the Baker Street Irregulars' yearly celebration, everyone waits anxiously to hear Alex Cale reveal his finding- a lost volume of Arthur Conan Doyle's personal journal from 1900, just before he resurrects Sherlock Holmes from his supposed death at Reichenbach falls. However, the morning of the big reveal finds Alex dead and new Sherlockian, Harold, is on the case.
The book also traces the events that happen to Doyle after he kills off Holmes and during this missing section of his journals as he and his friend, Bram Stoker, become involved in investigating a series of murders in London.
The novel does use some real events and people to frame the narrative- such as the Sherlockian scholar Richard Lancelyn Green's mysterious death in 2004 and what public records there are about Doyle's life at that time. However, since it is a work of fiction, Moore allows himself to play with the possibilities.
The novel could easily breech the realms of absurdity with the character of Harold adopting Holmesian deductive techniques. Moore makes his novel self aware, it is unlikely, and his characters know that. His characters are ordinary, likable people. One has to feel sorry for Doyle, dogged by rabid Holmes fans and becoming secondary to his own character. Sometimes it is a little hard for Holmes fans to like Doyle due to how dissmissive he was of Sherlock Holmes, but The Sherlockian makes him sympathetic, taps into his experience watching England mourn a fictional character.
The chapters switch back and forth between Harold's adventure in 2010 and Doyle's mystery in 1900. Sometimes after one chapter ends on cliff-hanger, it's almost a little bit painful to have to wait to see how it will conclude (but by the time you finish the chapter that follows in, you feel the same). Moore adopts that method of building dramatic tension that Doyle himself used when publishing his longer stories in the Strand, it leaves you eager to see what happens next.
At twenty-eight, Graham Moore has made an excellent debut with The Sherlockian. He no doubt has an exciting and entertaining career of intelligent novels ahead of him. Whether he sticks to the mystery genre or not, I'll be interested in seeing where he goes next.