Solving the Mystery of Sherlock’s “Death”

The 7% Solution Book Club will discuss 'The Sherlockian' on Monday, March 5, 7p. The conversation is free & open to the public!

~Post by Tommy W.

For more than a century the world has been obsessed with the wonderfully complex detective mastermind known as Sherlock Holmes. From his first appearance in A Study in Scarlet to his wild adventure in The Final Solution, Sherlock Holmes was an object of fascination for an entire society, and then without warning Arthur Conan Doyle killed his greatest character and left fans wanting more. Ten years passed and though fans and publishers begged, Doyle refused to bring back a character he felt no love for and supposedly despised. Then with just as much warning as was given of his death, Doyle brought Holmes back to life first with a flashback story, Hound of the Baskervilles, and then with new adventures. It is the mystery of why Doyle brought back Holmes with what appears to be no motivation that Holmes fans have been puzzling over for century, and it’s the mystery that Graham Moore’s debut novel, The Sherlockian, delves into.

Many authors have attempted to write new Holmes stories over the years, but with every new Holmes mystery, I’ve wondered when someone was going to write a mystery that focused not on Doyle’s greatest creation but on Doyle himself. Now I can finally stop wondering. The Sherlockian tackles the mystery of Holmes’ “death” over Reichenbach Falls not only from the perspective of a Holmes scholar in the present looking back into the past, but from the perspective of Doyle himself trying to solve a brutal murder. The chapters jump back and forth from the modern day, where the story revolves around a murdered Sherlockian and a diary missing from Doyle’s personal papers, to the turn of the twentieth century and a story that revolves around Doyle and fellow writer Brahm Stoker attempting to solve a series of brutal murders. Far from throwing the narrative into disarray, Moore’s time-jumping chapters actually tie the story together more effectively as events of the past effect the present and the mysteries of the present are made clear in the events of the past. The investigations run simultaneously through this book and, as the dual climaxes approach, begin to cliffhang back and forth.

As the mysteries through both time periods begin, Moore’s characters quickly begin to emulate Doyle’s as they settle into Watson/Holmes relationships. In the modern day, on the trail of a murderer and a missing diary worth a fortune to the right person, Harold White, a fan of Doyle’s and truly obsessed with Sherlock, evolves from a modern day film consultant into a late 19th century consulting detective as his intrepid sidekick, Sarah, morphs from a nosy reporter into a loyal Watson, always pushing Harold to reach further than his already brilliant deductions have taken him. In Doyle’s half of the story, the author, once so diffident about his character, attempts to emulate his own fiction by taking a case away from what he considers to be the imbeciles at Scotland Yard and promising to solve it himself. As for a Watson, that role is filled by Doyle’s longtime friend and confidante Brahm Stoker who, much like Sarah in the modern chapters, pushes Doyle to continue his investigation even after it seemingly falls apart around them. With riveting characters, well written prose, and a unique blend of both gaslight crime fiction and modern thriller tropes The Sherlockian cannot fail to delight fans of Sherlock Holmes, Victorian mysteries, or literary thrillers.

Book People’s Seven Percent Solution Mystery Book Club is reading this book for our March meeting on Monday March 5th at 7:00 P.M. If you’re intrigued, pick up a copy of this awesome book and come hang out with us as we talk about Graham Moore’s The Sherlockian, one of the best Holmes related mysteries I have ever read.

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