I’ve been going through a Victoriana bingefest lately – Wilkie Collins, Bram Stoker, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen…
So I thought I’d hark back to the world’s number one detective, the marvellously arrogant Sherlock Holmes. The famous detective was created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and was first published in 1887, appearing in more than fifty stories up until 1914. His death caused such an uproar that the circulation of the Strand magazine dropped by 20, 000 readers. Never before has a fictional character had such an influence on society and the development of detection.
I just finished reading A Study in Scarlet, Mr Holmes’ first adventure, in which he meets Mr Watson and embarks on an investigation of an apparently unsolvable murder, where the words RAICHE have been written on the wall in blood. Sherlock outwits not only the criminals but also Inspector Lestrade’s bumbling investigations that go in all the wrong directions. I had never realised how much fun Sherlock Holmes is. The delight in following Holmes solve mysteries is partly due to his snobbish arrogance, his bad violin playing and the use of words like ‘dunderheads’ to describe the bumbling Scotland Yarders that can’t grasp his higher intellect.
I must admit, I too was perplexed by some of the Holmesian logic. Conan Doyle does a great job of explaining this away by simply writing that it would take too long to explain the logic and by that time the bad guy would have got away. I personally can’t wait to encounter that notorious nasty of the nineteen hundreds, Professor Moriaty. Because in this first installment, it all seems a little too easy for Holmes; I can understand why he would need to meet his equal.
The stories read well, even a hundred years after their conception. It’s easy to see the impact that a fictional character has had on the real world; his process of methodical deduction influenced today’s forensic science. Those guys on CSI owe their jobs to the consulting detective. The tales have hugely influenced the way detective stories are written, assuring us that an interesting character can be just as compelling as crime.
There’s a new movie coming out, and despite the fact that it’s directed by Guy Ritchie, one of the most overrated directors of all time (I don’t care if you liked Lock Stock, I fell asleep in it), it does have fantastic casting, featuring Robert Downey Jr. as said detective. Not so sure about Jude Law as Watson but I guess that’s to get the ladies in. I always thought of him as a pudgy guy with a handlebar moustache. Mmmm… Jude Law with a handlebar moustache. Nevermind. Go and read the original instead.