Monday, August 1, 2011

The Sherlockian by Graham Moore

Moore, Graham. The Sherlockian. New York: Twelve, 2010.

In The Sherlockian, Graham Moore tells two stories, both crime tales that are linked by a missing diary. In the modern story, a newly inducted member of the Baker Street Irregulars, a prominent group of Sherlock Holmes fan-scholars, sets out to solve a murder that occurs at a convention of the Irregulars. Seeking the solution to this mystery leads him to another, the attempt to find a lost diary of Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Holmes.

The second story is historical. It features Doyle and his friend Bram Stoker, author of Dracula. Doyle similarly starts out to solve one mystery and gets draw into another. He sets out to discover who sent him a letter bomb that actually contains a letter, though Doyle narrowly escapes death from the bomb. It leads him into seeking the killer of young women who are joined by radical politics and an odd tattoo.

The first track reads as much like a suspense-thriller than a mystery, though the hero is decidedly nerdier than is typical of such stories, as you might expect of a guy who has had is head buried in books for years. The Doyle story begins as something similar to the stories the actual man wrote to showcase his famous character, the fictional detective
he killed to be rid of then brought back to life. It becomes more realistic at progress, or at least much messier.

Though mostly serious in tone, the book has humorous moments. The hero is a guy who has found a way to make a living from having read a ton of books. His chief credential as a detective is that he knows a lot about Sherlock Holmes. He’s not the only Sherlockian to involve himself in the case; he is simply more competent and lucky than the others.

The historical touches are interesting. The real Doyle consulted with Scotland Yard, with varying success, though the crime described in The Sherlockian is fictional. Some of his papers, including a diary, disappeared after his death and resurfaced more than 70 years later in the hands of a distant Doyle relative. A battle of words and lawyers ensued involving the would-be seller of these documents, the Doyle heirs, and a prominent Irregular. The Irregular died under suspicious circumstances and the case is still considered unsolved in spite of the efforts of police and many amateur detectives. These real events inspired the book, though the author clearly distinguishes in a short note the touch of history from the mass of fiction.

If you’re interested in this book, you may also be interested in
The Book of Lies by Brad Meltzer
The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril by Paul Malmont
The Great Stink by Clare Clark