by Graham Moore
First sentence: “Arthur Conan Doyle curled his brow tightly and thought only of murder.”
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It’s 1900, three years after famed author Arthur Conan Doyle killed off his most famous character, when he receives a box with a pipe bomb in it. It doesn’t kill him, but it does set him on a trail: someone murdered an innocent woman, and Doyle’s going to figure out who it is.
It’s also 2010, and Harold White has become the newest inductee into the Baker Street Irregulars, the most prestigious of the Sherlockian groups. While at the conference, he discovers the murder of the group’s most illustrious scholar, Alex Cale, who had recently found a diary of Doyle’s that had gone missing 80 years before.
Both men will find themselves knee-deep in mysteries that will confound them, and have them asking the ultimate question: What Would Sherlock Do?
I have to admit that I’m not a Sherlock buff. Sure, I like the new BBC series (and even the old one, with Jeremy Brett), but I’m not really a fan. And nowhere near the fanatic that the characters in the book are. And yet, I found myself strangely compelled by this mystery. Partially, I think, it was having Conan Doyle (and Bram Stoker!) be a character. I found his inner life interesting (even if it was mostly fictionalized), especially his loathing of his most famous detective. Harold, as well, was a fascinating character; smart not because he was brilliant, but because he was well-read and able to connect the dots.
But the mystery left a little to be desired. I felt that for all the build-up that we were given, the solution to the mystery was, well, a bit lame. Perhaps that was the author’s intent: the fun was in the journey, but not in the resolution.
And if that was the case, then he succeeded: because getting to the end was a lot of fun. Even if the end was a bit, well, lame.