I'm a bit puzzled why the Conan Doyle Estate picked Anthony Horowitz to write a Sherlock Holmes pastiche. His nerd credentials include Hercule Poirot...moreI'm a bit puzzled why the Conan Doyle Estate picked Anthony Horowitz to write a Sherlock Holmes pastiche. His nerd credentials include Hercule Poirot for TV and a few other mystery-related items, but I'll bet there are more committed Sherlockians who could've taken on this task. I suspect it's his ability to imitate ACD's writing style, which is cool if you're into Canon, but uncool if you're a modern reader. Here are some pros and cons of this imitation.
PRO: Horowitz did his research. I despise sloppy pastiches. So does the internet. If you're co-opting a character, please show the source material some respect. I think Horowitz does that, and it shows in the timeline. This case is supposed to take place during the "Adventures..." story set, and he references characters from "The Red-Headed League," etc. He has his details down, and doesn't try to insert random ones to twist the material in his favor, like a masturbatory fanfic writer. He treats Inspector Lestrade respectably, and his Watson isn't of the doddering Nigel Bruce variety. (PS - Sorry Nigel. Gotta keep it real, man.) So points for care.
CON: The writing style imitation is... nice, I guess. This is a dark story. There's a pretty horrible secret behind The House of Silk. Horowitz was trying so hard to follow ACD's style that the book missed out on a lot of atmosphere. I guess he gets a pat on a back for accuracy, but few points for actual appeal. People like me read this stuff for Victorian fog, cloaks, etc. Instead of trying to imitate a great, do it your way.
PRO: Unusual Mystery/Twists. I won't spoil what the House of Silk is, but it is pretty bad, and for Victorian times, rather salacious. Like, it's so bad, that (SPOILER!!)a certain Napoleon of Crime even deems it necessary for him to get involved. I'll admit, I thought the word "silk" was a reference to Moriarty, due to the description of him from "The Final Problem" that describes him so: "He sits motionless, like a spider in the center of its web, but that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows well every quiver of each of them." So silk... spider... yeah. Anyways, I was wrong. Cool times.
CON: Imitation = Too Old School. I read a lot of mystery, and I find it kind of lame when the Big Reveals are dependent on secret information being held in someone's head, rather than clues slowly given to the reader. This is "Old School." You'll find it a lot in British Armchair Detective writing like Agatha Christie and Nero Wolfe. I respect those authors for their literary merit, and recognize the Old School, but to me, It's some cheap deux ex machina easy-plot kind of crap, and not very respectful to a mystery-loving reader. If you don't drop the clues, you don't let the reader participate. Otherwise, they're just watching a master work. This is fine if you like character-driven fiction, but not if you're looking for artful storytelling. Sherlock Holmes is the epitome character-driven fiction. People didn't care as much about the stories as they did about him. People liked the deductions as a part of his personality.
Unfortunately, Holmes is of that Old School, and you have to deal with it in Doyle. But, I don't have to tolerate it in modern writing. These days, Modern Mystery is about laying out the Important Clue in the beginning of the story in an offhand way, and that clue doesn't become signficant until later. I call it the "Slap-Your-Head-Say-Duh!" Reveal - it's much more satisfying for a participatory reader. That type of mystery writing developed with Raymond Chandler and the advent of Noir, when murder became more artful (if you're Chandler).
So, in short: Horowitz is bogged down by imitating Doyle, and misses out on the opportunity to do something unique with this character. (less)
The only story worth reading in this anthology is obviously the one by Neil Gaiman. Neil's story is quietly devastating, but some of the others kind o...moreThe only story worth reading in this anthology is obviously the one by Neil Gaiman. Neil's story is quietly devastating, but some of the others kind of felt like a Sherlockian circle-jerk. Laurie R. King, honey. Please stop.(less)
Alas, this is a graduate of what I like to call the "Dan Brown New School of Mediocre History Mysteries." I mean, come on, it's his fault that history...moreAlas, this is a graduate of what I like to call the "Dan Brown New School of Mediocre History Mysteries." I mean, come on, it's his fault that history mysteries are the adult publishing craze of recent times. The only one worse than this is Kostova's The Historian, which is about a vampire. *facepalm*
You can tell Graham Moore is a nerd, and he knows his Victoriana quite well. While his write shows enthusiasm for the topic, he lacks in actual story elements. This is a weak mystery, plain and simple. The two aligned stories with Conan Doyle/Stoker and Harold/Sarah was an interesting idea, and they nicely threaded together in the end. But to be honest, Harold and Sarah are boring and impotent - Harold in particular. As a protagonist, he's really quite limp - especially for a Sherlock Holmes imitator. Conan Doyle would've snatched that deerstalker cap off his head and beat him with it, if I didn't do it first. Bram Stoker is a great character, and sadly underused. I would've loved to have him take a more active role in the whole thing.
The most disappointing part of this book is how short it is (yes, I'm actually saying that), because it didn't take any time to dwell on any real thoughts or themes for the reader to consider.I think Moore was trying to mimic Conan Doyle's style itself, which is punchy yet perfunct. Conan Doyle rarely wasted words, space, or clues in his writing - but he always left us with something to think about, and that's why mystery-reading folks like myself hold him in high mastery. The brilliant thing about Sherlock Holmes stories is that they're really simple and microcosmic: they magnify (pun intended?) just a few elements into something quite huge. But, without any feeling, a mystery is really just a simple puzzle, not an actual story. This story has no overarching emotional theme, and that's why it falls short of other books in its class, like, Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind. The really salient themes of time, aging, and relevance are buried in the Conan Doyle/Stoker sections, but they're pretty much lost in the shuffle. There is no artistry in a denouement that wraps up neatly.
Unfortunately, this is an amateurish imitation of both Dan Brown and Arthur Conan Doyle. Hopefully in future writing, Moore will find his stride in thematic elements, and write a story about people, not stick figures.
I have the complaint that every Sherlockian has about this book: needs more Holmes! The premise of the book is absolutely fascinating: how could a str...moreI have the complaint that every Sherlockian has about this book: needs more Holmes! The premise of the book is absolutely fascinating: how could a stranger get into a fortified old mansion with a moat to commit a murder? It is wonderfully simplistic in the answer, but the second half of the book (Douglas's story) is woefully tacked on. I wish Holmes himself had headed out to the American West to solve the mystery. (less)
Wow. Damn. I love these stories, and now I see why everyone in England lost their shit over the Reichenbach Fall.
I wonder what it is that makes an am...moreWow. Damn. I love these stories, and now I see why everyone in England lost their shit over the Reichenbach Fall.
I wonder what it is that makes an amazing characters, ones that truly last. As a fangirl, I think character development is the criteria. I hate reading fiction if I can't establish a stake in the people I'm reading about. They feel like friends and family. Sherlock Holmes is llike a friend to me. He never gets boring - he's that ineffable malcontent genius who is secretly very affectionate. Watson is so sweet he makes me want to cry a little. And the greatest charm of these stories is obviously their relationship. Even if Doyle clearly despised Holmes, his mastery in character development still shows. It makes your throat catch a little to imagine how lonely Watson really was without Holmes (and the implied death of his wife, mentioned in The Empty House). The writing made me I could genuinely feel just how happy he was to find out Holmes was still alive.
I hope one day I could create such masterpieces.(less)
True Life: I'm a Sherlock Holmes junky. If he's in it, I will consume it. And to be honest, some of it's good (ie, Benedict Cumberbatch & Co.), an...moreTrue Life: I'm a Sherlock Holmes junky. If he's in it, I will consume it. And to be honest, some of it's good (ie, Benedict Cumberbatch & Co.), and some of it's horrible. This book falls in the latter category. It disappointed me for a multitude of reasons:
1. A poorly developed mystery! The Simpson kidnapping is almost a completely useless plot line, in my opinion, other for character relationship development. It's just boring. There's little thrill to the overarching mystery,
2. I love Watson, and Martin Freeman has made me love Watson even more. I absolutely despise when he's treated like a doddering and senile old man in Alternate Universes. The real Watson is the human half of Holmes, and he actually gets all the chicks in the stories. The lame "Uncle John" character in this story who gets nothing be depreciated by Holmes is not Watson.
3. Talk about a mischaracterized Holmes. King's Holmes shows no traces of the high-functioning sociopath we all know and love. He's soft. I do appreciate her attention to some of his quirks, like his disguises, but her Holmes just straight-up sucks. Sherlock Holmes definitely goes on to be a bigger bastard in his old age (evidenced by everything after Reichenback Falls), not a kindly old man.
4. Worst of all: Mary Russell? More like Mary Sue. If you're a nerd on the internet, Mary Russell is pretty pedestrian fanfiction material. There are no flaws in Mary Russell, and it drives me crazy. A random, super-brilliant teenage girl who always gets the answers right and happens to be buddingly attractive? Catches more respect from Sherlock Holmes than his partner of a bazillion years, Watson? Next, she'll be dating Draco Malfoy and have sparkly hair or something.
This book receives two stars only for its succinct, stark writing and allegory - I gotta give props to an author with a honed craft. And I appreciate...moreThis book receives two stars only for its succinct, stark writing and allegory - I gotta give props to an author with a honed craft. And I appreciate the content of LOTF because I think there's something to be said about human savagery. That is, human beings can be cruel and murderous... no denying that. That said, I cannot give this book any more credit because I hate its horrific, anti-humanist philosophy, and its contradictory ending. I do NOT think middle-schoolers should read it in curriculum, (librarian disclaimer: not the same as banning, y'all) unless its to dissect how stupid the themes are.
More personally, I read a lot of dystopic fiction, and I read it as an informed humanist. This means I don't agree that humans are naturally cruel and selfish, but rather, they are conditioned to be that way. People (children in particular) observe cruel behavior and act it out - it isn't naturally ingrained in them in any way. We also socially condition MEN to think that they are biologically savage, ready to rape and kill the second they leave society. I think the Freudian "id" is a load of sexist, superstitious bullshit, and it's unfortunate that this novel is so informed by it. William Golding totally buys into that Freudian BS, and even more cruelly uses children to depict it. The boys devolve quickly because it's their nature?? No. That's a cheap and shabby case of someone using psychology/biology to explain behavior.
BUT THEN, in the worst thematical denouement ever, he brings on a Navy captain rescuer! What the eff, Golding? Is this a twist? Are you saying the boys learn savagery by watching adults blow each other up (which I could get behind), or that ALL MEN are born savages? What the hell, man? The Naval Officer's presence in the novel is more perplexing and irritating than satisfying. He doesn't complicate meaningfully, he contradicts. Bad show, Golding.
In short: this book is full of bullshit. There is no biological impulse to commit violence (unless you have a mental illness, and even that goes into some iffy territory), and it isn't gendered in any way. And if the history of civilization is any proof, people strive to keep societal order, not destroy it.
I think those who choose this book may be looking for a more lurid history, like The Devil in the White City. Admittedly, I too was hoping for blood....moreI think those who choose this book may be looking for a more lurid history, like The Devil in the White City. Admittedly, I too was hoping for blood. But, I was actually very pleased with Simon Winchester's artful and deft telling of the most monumental project in English literary history.
I'm a librarian, and I know how often reference books are taken for granted. Can you believe something so effing huge was researched by hand? Can you believe that some crazy man had over 10,000 useful entries in the greatest lexicon ever? Can you believe how vast the English language is? Winchester's writing style itself, full of some super fab vocab, is an homage to the Dictionary itself. This book will help all appreciate the complexity of capturing a language, and of the productive connection between two minds of different worlds. (less)