I’m currently reading my third Sherlock Holmes pastiche of the month, and I have one more in audiobook format that I still need to listen to. All four are set entirely or in part after the Conan Doyle canon. We’ll take them in order of reading:
- First, we have The Sherlockian, by Graham Moore. This novel adopts the “alternating chapter” technique, in which the odd-numbered chapters take place in 1893 and the even-numbered ones in the present day. The tie-in is that the current scenes involve the Baker Street Irregulars, one of whom claims to have found a volume of Arthur Conan Doyle’s diary and is of course murdered. I really wanted to like this book.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t.
While the writing is serviceable enough, and the two plots are reasonably well-constructed, I just couldn’t get into the stories. In fact, I found myself skimming the second half of the novel. So I am reluctantly unable to recommend The Sherlockian.
Next, we have The Final Solution, by Michael Chabon. Unlike The Sherlockian, this slender novel certainly doesn’t suffer from being too long to finish. If anything, its 131 pages leave the reader wanting more. Here we have Holmes as an 89-year-old — in fact, he is always referred to as “the old man,” and it takes a bit of detective work on the part of the alert reader to realize that Chabon has provided enough clues to ascertain his identity. He has retired to the countryside to be an amateur beekeeper, as was shown in the chronologically last of the Conan Doyle stories. But that story (“His Last Bow”) takes place in the First World War, when Holmes was still reasonably active even though retired; Chabon places his novella during the Second World War (hence the title, which of course has two meanings). I found The Final Solution to be consistently absorbing and even unpredictable, especially the chapter that was ostensibly (and convincingly) written by a parrot.
I can’t yet review A Slight Trick of the Mind, by Mitch Cullin, as I am only halfway through reading it. I can, however, report that it is written in a much more literary style than the Moore and Chabon works. In fact, one of the reasons that I am only halfway through it is that I find myself reading every word of every sentence, savoring the style as much as the content. I happen to like that, though I know that many readers do not. Anyway, here we have Holmes even older than in Chabon’s portrayal: at age 93, after the end of the Second World War, Holmes is still retired and keeping bees in Sussex. I’ll refrain from saying anything more until I’ve finished the book, but I’m quite sure that I will end up recommending it.
Speaking of beekeeping, I haven’t even begun The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, by Laurie King, but I am sure from the title that we still have Holmes in the countryside tending bees. I’ll let you know.