I spent 60 hours with this audio book, please indulge me in spending two blog post on it.
It occurred to me in re-reading the post I wrote last week about the Sherlock Holmes stories that I spoke more about mystery and crime stories in general. This week I’m going to write about Sherlock specifically.
Sherlock Holmes was the first of its kind in crime stories. Sherlock is not a police officer or really involved with the police in many of the stories. He is not trained like police officers are. He’s just a very, very smart man who is incredibly observant.
My favorite thing about these stories is as Sherlock is explaining who the murderer or the kidnapper or the thief is, it many times feels obvious. It feels like we should have figured it out. Like if we were inside Baker’s street and saw that Doctor Watson had flecks of mud on his coat, we too would know he was traveling in a cart with someone else. The clues are all there, you just have to know what they mean. The red fibers, plus the way the foot print in the mud looks clearly equals that a petite woman was the one hiding in the bush, not a large man like it was assumed — obviously.
Although the modern interpretations of the stories center around murder, most of the Holmes canon is not murder, but blackmail, and theft, kidnapping, and all manner of crime. I found that to be just great. Sometimes with crime stories, it’s nice to have something a little different. Too many dead bodies– even fictional ones– become heavy after a while.
I think what makes Sherlock a character that survives through to today is that it’s so easy to change a couple things and have him live today. As I mentioned in last week’s post, it’s been done so many times. Crime is timeless, although some of the stories Dr. Watson so nicely chronicled for us are very Victorian, many of them the date that they happened is irrelevant.
For example, The short story from His Last Bow, The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax, involves a casket with a faux bottom– and a second body. If you are a fan of crime shows, how many times have you see this? I was 80% sure that this happened in real life a few years ago, but after thinking about it for a little bit, I’m pretty sure it was an episode of CSI, but I still have a feeling it happened IRL too. If this happened, IRL did the murder get the idea from Holmes? Was the CSI episode based on a real thing? On the short stories Wikipedia page it doesn’t include any adaptations except those that use the Sherlock Holmes character.
Every single crime troupe came from the pen of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
A while back, like 2009, there was a Hank Green song about crime shows. The chorus goes like this “This is the plot to every television crime show/ from CSI to Columbo/ and I think I know what’s in store /That guy we met in the first 15 minutes/ will be back cuz we know he did it/ They’re not even trying anymore.”
This started with Sherlock. All of it started here. Everything you find cliche about crime stories, you’ll find within the pages of Sherlock novel. Which sometimes I could find a little annoying, but then when you sit back and think about it. That episode of L&O or CSI or NCIS or any other show came over 100 years after Sherlock. He invented it.
There has always been fandom. The fans of Sherlock Holmes in the late 1890’s we’re that different from the people on the Facebook asking to bring Sense 8 back. Arthur Conan Doyle wanted Holmes to die and threw him off a cliff. The fans said “No thanks” and bothered Doyle until he brought Holmes back.
I’ve read the Doyle didn’t like writing Holmes, and it makes the writer in me a little sad. I mean, who wants to write something they don’t enjoy. However, he kept doing it, he kept writing these stories, and they don’t read like the author didn’t care. He clearly cared about creating a good story. I hope that the tales of him hating writing these stories are exaggerated.
Sherlock Holmes is so incredible. Many have, and many will try to recreate it, but I don’t think anything as iconic and original will come from a crime story.
Because if there has been a crime, Sherlock Holmes has solved it.
Until next time Internet,