Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Book Review: The Great Detective: The Amazing Rise and Immortal Life of Sherlock Holmes by Zach Dundas

I was introduced to Sherlock Holmes in the mid-1980s by my mother, a huge fan of Mystery! and so naturally I was indoctrinated to picture Jeremy Brett forever, as the Great Detective. (Now, after having seen others try to portray Holmes, I stand by that. Brett's performance is truly bar-none.) I went on to read a lot if not all of the stores and novels. The Speckled Band still freaks me out, as does The Hound of the Baskervilles, although most of the stories aren't scary—they're just mind-twisters.

Mr. Dundas is the perfect author to write this history—he's a big fan but not a superfan of disturbing portions. He does talk to them, the writers of fanfic and those who dress up and so on. When he was a kid in the midwest, he formed his own Sherlock Holmes club! But he also does thorough research, and yet the book doesn't read even remotely academic. It's very readable, even a fast read for nonfiction, and thoroughly entertaining. Mr. Dundas doesn't hold Conan Doyle to a very high standard—he understands that mostly Conan Doyle wrote for the money and couldn't be bothered with research or getting his time frames correct. But that isn't the point. While you might think that books about a detective with such an eye for detail would themselves have the details all perfect, but they're adventure yarns and the action is the main point. Holmes doesn't sit in his study and puzzle out the clues while smoking his pipe—he's running around town wearing disguises and using his much-lauded single stick-fighting skills. And yes, in between he often is doing coke, as he is thoroughly bored when he isn't thoroughly occupied.

If you read (or watched) Sherlock Holmes tales, this book covers everything including Conan Doyle's much-ballyhooed obsession with the occult in his later days, with care and delight. Enjoy!

I checked this book out of the library.

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