Monday, February 25, 2008

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I like a good detective story and that is exactly what Doyle delivers in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Holmes is nothing like the bespectacled man I remember from Wishbone Classics as a child. He's actually a rather seedy character with an addiction to cocaine and an aversion to law enforcement officers who is described as being "bohemian". In order to do his detective work, he's often breaking just as many laws as the people he's trying to track down. The narrator is Holmes' friend Dr. Watson, an amiable family man who spends his free time helping the detective and sometimes chronicaling their mishaps. (I would like to point out here that prior to writing, Doyle was a doctor.) Watson seems to be a foil for Holmes more than anything else, as he's portrayed as being more stable over all. It's Watson that does the gun toting when things get serious, though-- the only weapon that we see Holmes use at all is a whip. One last character note about our daring detective is that he seems to be another Victorian asexual male hero. The only woman he's interested in at all is Irene Adler-- the one person to ever outsmart him in a case invovling the King of Prussia.

The stories are rather neatly tied together with a neat beginning, middle, and end... the kind of formulaic writing we learn to abide by in our early schooling. The beginnings of each short story are the only really painful things to read, however. You are introduced to Holmes' new client who is in need of his help because their fiance has vanished into thin air, someone is blackmailing them with a photograph, ect. Then Holmes uses his keen observational skills to point out things about the client that only a psychic could know-- for instance, he can tell a woman is a typist because of wear on a certain part of her sleeves. Every time Watson is just shocked at Holmes' attention to detail while I was just yawning.

These stories reminded me quite a bit of Poe's detective fiction, for example "The Murders at Rue Morgue" and "The Purloined Letter". I found Doyle's writing to be more interesting and over all superior by far. Doyle gave the reader a better chance at figuring out the story's quirk along with Holmes, though in some cases, such as "A Case of Identity", he gave a little bit too much away from the start. As today's detective fiction is filled with too many technological gadgets and CSI nonsense, Poe is the only thing I know to compare with this.

I wouldn't recommend the whole book, but I'd at least check out one or two to see what Doyle has to offer. You can do this without buying the book if you go to the website, which also has a lot of other classic works that are past the copywrite date now.


Carlton said...

If you like detective fiction, check out a G. K. Chesterton's Father Brown stories.

Elizabeth said...

I love the Sherlock Holmes stories. I've read them all, I think, and I might re-read Hound of the Baskervilles this year.

Nihil Novum said...

That Elizabeth comment was actually Brent. However, I'm fairly certain she agrees with my assessment.

Brooke said...

*puts Father Brown and Hound of the Baskervilles on reading list*

Thanks for the suggestions.