The Summer of Sherlock–The Hound of the Baskervilles

It’s the darndest thing, but I feel that ever since starting this series of posts and reading all this Holmes, I’ve become a classier person. Really; I’ve been checking out classical music from the library a lot lately and listening to it, I’ve been paying more attention to news and current events, and I’m eagerly waiting for the 2nd installment of the PBS miniseries Queen & Country.

I feel that same sense of classiness about this novel. Although the plot–Holmes and Watson travel to the southern region of Devon and the perpetually foggy Dartmoor to investigate rumors of a giant ghostly dog that’s haunted the aristocratic dynasty of the title at the request of the latest family member to move in–is the stuff of what Louisa May Alcott called “blood-and-thunder stories” and the pulp fiction that would spring up 20-odd years later (Hounds was published in 1901), it’s above that. It conducts itself with a decorum that undercuts the horror but enhances the mystery and Gothic atmosphere. Make no mistake; Stephen King probably looked to this when writing Cujo. Although allegedly, he was so deep into drugs and alcohol that he doesn’t even remember writing that book.

Anyway, this book is recommended.One more note: A good friend of mine, the Internet comics sensation HdE. actually lives in Devon. I shot him a message after finishing this asking if Dartmoor was that scary and he said it really isn’t, but he still wouldn’t be there at night…something to think about, I suppose.

Because I didn’t post this on Wednesday, you’re getting another post today!

The Summer of Sherlock: A Study In Scarlet–Retrospective Review

I know a lot of you probably want me to comment on this, but I’ll get to that when I get to it. For now, SHERLOCK!

A Study In Scarlet is the first of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s four Holmes novels, as well as the first Holmes story, period. Published in 1887, it wasn’t a huge hit, but today is considered a forerunner of the mystery genre.

The plot? After Holmes and Watson meet and move in together, they’re called upon to investigate the mysterious death of the American Enoch Drebber. Found in an abandoned house, his body has no outward traces of murder, so the police are baffled. Shortly after, another bdoy, that of Drebber’s secretary, Joseph Stangerson, is found in a similar matter. The story’s title comes from Holmes telling Watson that “There‚Äôs the scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it.”

What makes this novel special though is that it’s not all Holmes’ actions seen through Watson’s eyes; the 2nd half is a flashback to the Utah desert 40 years before the story takes place, which fills in the backstory of not only the 2 Americans, but also their murderer.

The real bad guys in this book are, believe it or not, the Mormons. Y’know, that thing the South Park guys made a Broadway musical out of? The religion that both Republican leading man Mitt Romney and professionally insane person Glenn Beck belong to? That thing that is deeply engrained in American culture, yet no one understands how it actually works?

They’re kinda set up as the ultimate evil cabal and, the way Doyle writes the flashback scenes with such intensity, it really does work. It is, in hindsight, a little flimsy, but it still works.

I call this a retrospective because I’ve sort of read this book before. A few years ago, I found an audiobook of it for free online and it was pretty well done. Don’t have it anymore, though. The nice thing is, the version I have also contains The Hound of the Baskervilles, which is not only a later Holmes novel, but also the first Holmes story Doyle wrote in some years before dragging the character out of retirement.

About 4 chapters in and it’s gripping stuff. ‘Till next time!

The Summer of Sherlock!

Y’know, over the past few weeks, I’ve learned to love my day job. The biggest reinforcement of this, however, came on Tuesday night.

After having a work appointment with my neighbors, whose house I had never been in before, I got to talking with them and it turned out that the wife was a Sherlockian not so long ago.

A Sherlockian, if you can’t figure it out, is the term for a fan of Sherlock Holmes. If you don’t know who Sherlock Holmes is, go away, you strange alien lifeform.

Anyway, I’ve become a bit of a recent Sherlockian myself, with a big part of that owing to the BBC’s Sherlock program, which, believe you me, I’ll post about soon.

We talked Holmes for a while, then my neighbor did the most…well…neighborly thing you can imagine. She just up and GAVE me 5 Holmes books! How cool is that?

I’ve been delving into the first one, this Reader’s Digest edition of A Study in Scarlet & The Hound of the Baskervilles, 2 of the 4 original Holmes novels written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. And I got to thinking, “Well, if I’m going to be reading all these books in a row, why don’t I post reviews?” So that’s what I’m doing!

Yup, we have a recurring feature on this here blog. So until then, stay put and enjoy this drawing of Holmes by original story illustrator Sidney Paget: