Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Holmes Comes Back in Contemporary Detective Lit

The Rutherford County One Book committee is busy reading candidates for the 2012-2013 One Book choice. Committee member and Daily News Journal Lifestyles editor, Sandee Suitt, wrote a fantastic review of some her current reads which involve Sherlock Holmes. Check out what she has to say about these contemporary homages to the greatest detective in literature.

MURFREESBORO — With the popularity of the action-packed Sherlock Holmes movies and the BBC’s more cerebral modern-day telling of Sherlock for the small screen, writers seem to have found new inspiration in an old character.

In addition to the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle mysteries, the author’s estate recently endorsed Anthony Horowitz as the writer to take up the tale. His novel, “The House of Silk” is set in 1890 and evokes the original feel of Holmes’ fog-shrouded London. He’s still at Baker Street with the familiar characters, including sidekick Dr. Watson, Police Inspector Lestrade, landlady Mrs. Hudson, brother Mycroft and arch villain Moriarty.

Horowitz says he tried to keep the tone and flavor of the original Holmes stories and novels but with a modern place.

Author Graham Moore set out on a different route with his novel, “The Sherlockian,” focusing on a mystery that plagues students of Conan Doyle. Why did the author kill off his main character at the end of 1893 and then resurrect him in 1901? Conan Doyle kept detailed diaries, but the one from the time period that could explain the change heart has never been found.

In Moore’s story, Harold White, attends a gathering of Sherlockian societies, made up of devotees of the works. A murder sets White on a journey to find the lost diary in a tale that weaves between contemporary times and the dawn of the 20th century.

A third novel based on the Holmes mysteries is “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice,” which was published in 1994. It is the first of Laurie R. King’s imaginings of Sherlock Holmes in the early 20th century, a time just after Conan Doyle stopped writing of the popular detective.

In King’s tale, the world is changing with the advent of World War I, and Holmes has moved to an estate in the countryside where he tends to bee hives. He meets his neighbor, 15-year-old Mary Russell, and is uncharacteristically fascinated by the girl’s brilliance.

He tutors her and sees that she gets into Oxford University at a time when women were just breaking into academia.

King says she came up with her Mary Russell character by imagining a female version of Sherlock Holmes, but a woman detective would be nearly unimaginable in the more reserved Victorian times, hence the aging Holmes in the 1900s.

Russell is a strong female character and equal partner to Holmes and his brilliance, even besting him at times.

“The Beekeeper’s Apprentice” is a slow read at the beginning as the characters are set up and Russell’s intelligence established, but less than half way into the book, the mystery takes off and the pace quickens. The reader is swept along as Holmes and his apprentice rush to uncover the identity of a bomber whose targets are the detectives and friends.

The “House of Silk,” “The Sherlockian” and “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice” are all on the shelves of Linebaugh Library, as are the original works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

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