Saturday, September 9, 2017

Book Review: 'The Sherlockian' by Graham Moore

"For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle." -- Hebrews 8:4-5 (NKJV)

If you have read all the Sherlock Holmes novels and stories (and can remember the plot details), at least one reasonably thorough biography of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, know about Doyle's real-life "detective" experiences, and follow the nonfiction lore of today's Holmes' aficionados, you have an immense treat ahead of you. Debut novelist Graham Moore has created a parallel to those charming nesting Russian dolls in The Sherlockian through drawing on all of those sources to intertwine two fictional plots into one interconnected story, with developments alternating between Doyle's time and today from one chapter to the next. There's enough connection to the "real thing" in events that have occurred to make the book especially intriguing. For me, some of the best fun was when Harold White, the newest [fictional] member of the Baker Street Irregulars, pulls off stunning deductions that will remind you of you-know-who.

If you lack such background, the book may seem odd to you. As some are fond of saying, truth is often stranger than fiction . . . and many of the strangest developments in The Sherlockian are well rooted in at least some aspects of history or current fact.

I had so much fun with this book that I wanted to pull out my complete set of the Sherlock Holmes novels and stories and reread each of the fictional references appearing in The Sherlockian. Who wouldn't want a good reason to revisit such a rich source of fictional detecting pleasure?

If you notice that I'm avoiding using any details, there's a good reason. Saying almost anything more would be a spoiler for someone who knows the relevant background of this exceptional and enjoyable novel that's very consistent with the genre, author, and fictional detective it honors.

Bravo, Mr. Moore! If you write as carefully and well in the future, you are going to be one of my favorite authors.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Donald Mitchell. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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