Friday, January 24, 2014

The many sides of Sherlock Holmes

Pertinent to the groundswell of interest in all things Sherlock (viz PBS's Sherlock and CBS's Elementary, both hit series) is the mystery novel The Sherlockian, which takes as its jumping off point the famous hiatus in the Holmes saga when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (above) killed off his burdensome creation at the Reichenbach Falls—and a collective wail of woe went up over the English-speaking world.  The original story ("The Final Problem") can be found in the collection The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, which also recounts "The Musgrave Ritual" and other famed puzzlers. (Right: Holmes and Moriarty fighting over the Reichenbach Falls, by Sidney Paget.)
Apropos of Sherlock having a female partner in crime solving (i.e., Lucy Liu's stellar role as an upgraded Watson in Elementary), I quite enjoyed Laurie R. King's Justice Hall, in which Holmes's wife/partner, Mary Russell, exhibits a gratifying resourcefulness in danger-ridden undercover sleuthing.
Of the 40-some actors who have portrayed Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jonny Lee Miller, and Robert Downney Jr are certainly arrestingly watchable with their tricked-out bells and whistles, but I do preserve a soft spot for the non-postmodern portrayals by Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett. How about you?
If you're a diehard mystery fan, you'll want to investigate Otto Penzler's The Lineup: The World's Greatest Crime Writers Tell the Inside Story of their Greatest Detectives and The Vicious Circle: Mystery and Crime Stories by Members of The Algonquin Round Table.


  1. Personally, I prefer Basil Rathbone. His physical appearance most closely matched the description in the book. Jeremy Brett is similar, but adds an air that I would identify more with T. S. Eliot than with Holmes. Rathbone was more earnest and direct.
    Frankly, I can't stand Jonny Lee Miller. I like to think of him as another detective altogether. Holmes should be exacting and tidy. Miller is a mess.
    Don't know Cumberbatch, but the ads I've seen make me wary.

    1. Basil would get my vote too. Thanks for making me realize who Brett reminded me of!! Someday someone will probably write a detective novel w/ T.S. Eliot as the sleuth (alas).

    2. “Mistah Kurtz – he dead (apparently planted last year in my garden) and the cops were convinced I’d done it. So I had to wander this rats’ alley of an unreal city, under the brown fog of a winter dawn, and find the real killer.”