I’m very happy with my first read of the year (technically, I finished an audiobook first, but 1. I started it last year and 2. I’m not talking about it until I finish the whole series). I’m delighted with The Sherlockian by Graham Moore for several reasons. First, I am happy because it made me realize that avoiding buying new books in giant piles is going to be great for me because I already have unread gems on my shelf. Second, it involves one of the authors I will obsess over probably until I die (and maybe after if I get to meet my favorite authors in Heaven). For the record, those authors are Arthur Conan Doyle, Homer, Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, and J.K. Rowling. Third, I freaking loved this book!
I thought it was amazingly well written. There are two mysteries running parallel to each other, and I was hooked on both until the very last page. I think Moore did a really good job of blending Sherlock Holmes-style mystery into Doyle’s and Harold’s lives without making it hoaky. Many times with novels about Doyle as a crime solver, a fan of Holmes solving mysteries, or a new story starring Holmes, the author tends to make it just a bit too campy, and that falls flat on the page. None of that happened in Moore’s book. I think he picked excellent subject matter. He didn’t tie himself too tightly to real life, but he didn’t let the fiction run wild either.
One thing I really loved about the book was the sense of disillusionment he created. That is not a term I usually use when referring to modern authors, and I have often thought that particular subtlety in literature died with Fitzgerald’s era. I am happily proven wrong. This novel was extremely entertaining, but it also had literary merit. In fact, if I were teaching a class on Sherlock Holmes and how the character has remained an important part of pop culture, I would definitely use this book as an example.
I also appreciated the author’s note at the end. He explains the real life events that inspired his book, and he explains where he deviates into fiction. He also provides some excellent recommendations for other books about Arthur Conan Doyle, which are, of course, now on my Amazon wishlist waiting patiently to be devoured by my eyeballs.
“Arthur killed Sherlock Holmes by the light of a single lamp.” Drama, my friends.
“Love grew docile with age, like a faithful hound. It became precious and prized, locked away from the world like a jewelry box. Love grew commendably dependable–love was eggs, love was ham, love was the morning paper.” Proof that similes in their simplicity are now and forever one of the best literary devices. Thank you, Homer, for writing them thousands of years ago. Thank you, Graham Moore, for continuing the legacy now.
“I don’t know how any man could feel his eyes burn in the electric light and not also feel the sudden palpability of history.” I mean, come on! That sentence is amazing.
This book is some damn fine historical fiction.