Book Review: The Sherlockian by Graham Moore

Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Given my affection for Sherlock Holmes, it was only a matter of time before this book made it to the top of my To Be Read pile. Or bookcase, in my case. The idea of a mystery solved by a fan of the Arthur Conan Doyle stories was just too intriguing. There's nothing a reader loves more than feeling that they're in on the secret, picking up knowing little tidbits in references that others may miss.

The premise of the story is that missing volume of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's diary has been found by leading Sherlock Holmes scholar, Alex Cale, but, before he can reveal it, he's murdered with his own shoelaces. Supposedly a true story, the author takes this tale, plus the historical fact that Conan Doyle acted as a consultant to Scotland Yard, and weaves the two together into a fictionalized account of what happened.

Harold White, newly inducted into the Baker Street Irregulars, the most prestigious of the organizations devoted to Conan Doyle's detective, determines to solve the murder in true Sherlock Holmes style. A scholarly nerd, Harold is flattered when freelance journalist, Sarah Lindsay, joins him in the hunt.

Meanwhile, back in Victorian London, Conan Doyle is taking abuse for killing off his famous detective at The Reichenbach Falls. He is accosted by strangers in the street, nagged by his editor, and even receives a letter bomb. This last straw brings him to contact Scotland Yard, which doesn't seem to take the incident seriously. Seriously annoyed and having some fear for his life, Conan Doyle decides to attempt to find the perpetrator along with his best friend, Bram Stoker. This investigation leads to a further investigation into the murders of several young women.

Although, as expected, the two tales are eventually joined for the conclusion of the book, I found it somewhat distracting to switch between them. I've read other novels which had parallel stories in two different times or locations and enjoyed them, but The Sherlockian felt like the author had two separate novels in mind and not enough material for either one to stand alone. It wasn't that either story was uninteresting. Quite the contrary. I was enjoying being immersed in each of them as I was reading. It was more that I felt I was jerked out of one story and had to totally reorient myself into the other at each new chapter.

This might just be me and your mileage may vary. However, if I were to give this book a grade, the most it would rate with me would be a B. Possibly a B plus. With so many books to read, I probably won't seek out Graham Moore's next novel.

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