The Sherlockian, by Graham Moore


The Sherlockian was a fun read. Not as deep as Finn, true, but then I do admire the nerve of authors who take on Literary Landmarks such as Twain or Doyle and manage to pull it off plausibly, not to mention being willing to attempt an explanation of something that’s been plaguing literary circles for decades: the Great Hiatus, or why Doyle “killed” Holmes by having Moriarty take him over Reichenbach Falls, only to resurrect his creation some years later. (The “posthumously” published Hound of the Baskervilles is technically a reminiscence of Watson’s about something which happened while Holmes was alive. The first time.)

The reason behind Doyle’s decision to end Holmes’ life at Reichenbach Falls is reasonably well determined: he had grown weary of writing stories for the penny dreadfuls about his creation and wanted to move on to other things. Unfortunately, like so many authors after him (and presumably before as well), Doyle found out that the entirely imaginary fictitious creature of his creation had developed a life of its own–readers and authors plagued him for years for killing1 Holmes, and eventually, he brought Holmes back to life in 1901. Buy why? Money is an obvious motive, as would pressure from readers and publishers, but no concrete explanation seems to have come to light2. There is, however, a noticeable change in Holmes’ behavior after Doyle brought him back to life. The Sherlockian attempts to explain both the Great Hiatus and the reasons why Doyle changed Holmes so.

The Sherlockian is two linked stories in one: the events in Doyle’s life leading up to his decision to resurrect Holmes and the modern investigation into the now lost volume of Doyle’s diary in which he describes these events, and the death of the Sherlockian who claimed to have found the diary volume in question. Was Alex Case’s death murder or suicide? Did he ever in fact have the diary? Why did Doyle decide to resurrect Holmes? What did he and his friend Bram Stoker uncover about the suffragettes?

The Sherlockian won’t break any new ground for avid Sherlockians, any more than Finn did for Twain scholars. The alternating POV chapters may be a current literary fad, and this is a fairly straightforward example of that–the chapters alternate and are clearly labelled as to whom they’re about/when they’re set. For those of us who are mildly interested in Holmes, this should serve as an enjoyable read.

1no, I have no idea how one kills something which is not living
2that I’m aware of at any rate; I’m sure avid Sherlockians have four or five for The Great Hiatus

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