Tuesday, 22 November 2011

My Dear Holmes: A Study in Sherlock - Gavin Brend

My Dear Holmes: A Study in Sherlock by Gavin Brend

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a fantastic little book. Written decades and decades ago, it's a fascinating example of the author's love for Sherlock Holmes and his adventures; extreme and intense scholarly study of the canon; and a tour de force of brain thrashing and text/date/fact wrangling in pursuit of 'The Great Game' ie. treating Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson as real historical figures, and presenting a coherent timeline of their cases.

That people play this game is a tribute the compelling and beloved characters that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created. They're so much larger than life, and fiction, that they seem real. But it does make me smile at, and at the same time deeply admire, the lengths to which Holmes scholars will go to 'make things fit'. Gavin Brend has done an outstanding and very readable job of assigning cases to years and filling in gaps between cases. It's a triumph of detective work in itself, picking through textual clues and cross referencing them. His own writing style is humorous and a little quaint in places, but this book is 60 years old, so his voice is bound to be different to that of someone approaching the topic now.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this small volume. But I'm left thinking how much easier life would have been - although far, far less challenging - for Holmes' students if Sir Arthur had worked with a rigorous content and continuity editor throughout the years he was writing about the Great Detective.

But maybe it's better this way, better that Sir Arthur often completely forgot what he'd written in an earlier story, and frequently perpetrated gaffes with dates, times, places... because playing The Great Game must have brought almost as much pleasure to people as reading the stories themselves does. :)