Monday, September 10, 2007
book of books- The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes is one of the biggest characters around and when you pick up a collection of stories by Arthur Conan Doyle about the great detective you know that you are in for an enjoyable ride, which is why it is such a good choice for holiday reading. But there is also a connection that is still very much kept alive in Switzerland to commemorate the place where the fictional hero met his demise wrestling on a precipice with arch enemy Moriarty. Being able to go and visit the place where Holmes fell on holiday was special and certainly anyone who falls down the Reichenbach falls is not going to be getting back up.
This is a collection of tales told by Watson in the form of a memoir that is filling in the blanks trawling through the earliest cases of Holmes’s career introducing his brother Mycroft and some of his University background before moving to the finale. The Final Problem, where Holmes fights with Professor Moriarty, is notable for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it is surprisingly short for such an emotional and critical tale in the Holmes history; and secondly it seems to come out of nowhere without any of the preceding stories acting as a springboard into the Moriarty storyline.
Up to that point the collection looks back over Holmes’s career revealing the way certain mysteries including the death of a man in a locked room, the twin brothers conning a bank clerk and the torture of a Greek translator are all solved. Without going into any great detail of the individual stories (previous posts will do that) it is safe to generalise that all of them are a mixture of suspense, darkness and Holmes amazing ability to solve the crime. The end comes with Holmes going out on a high ending the career of his opposite the criminal mastermind Moriarty. It is worth waiting for and delivered through the friendly pen of Watson who is the loyal narrator until the bitter end.
Is it well written?
Some stories work better than others with some lacking a great deal of depth – a one-dimensional problem that is impressive until Holmes has shown how it was solved. But in terms of mood this is a great collection of stories that would have kept readers gripped when they first appeared and still have the ability to keep you wanting to read more. The combination of maverick detective, dark crimes that appear to be unsolvable by the police and some seedy characters might be lifted from Poe’s Murder in the Rue Morgue but to be able to deliver again and again at this level is an achievement that is Conan Doyle’s own.
Should it be read?
You have to read the Final problem at some point because it is one of the most famous Holmes stories after The Hound of the Baskervilles. Even people relatively unfamiliar with the actual contents of Sherlock Holmes books know about the fight with Moriarty. But there is another reason to pick this collection of stories up, the simple benefit of pure enjoyment. These are puzzles delivered by an expert storyteller who knows that he has you as a reader in the palm of his hand waiting for the moment when Holmes finally shares all of the secrets with Watson.
A collection of victories over crime that ends with the greatest of them all requiring the greatest sacrifice
Version read – Penguin paperback