But if you think you can manage to sleep tonight, then sleep on this: Is the mystery sometimes more pleasurable than the solution?
The Sherlockian – Graham Moore
Graham Moore’s debut novel has all the ingredients to be a delicious mystery. it opens with Arthur Conan Doyle and his dear friend Bram Stoker as Arthur debates the pros and cons of killing off his famed character, Sherlock Holmes. Filled with a bitter hatred for his character because all of London believes Holmes to be real, and Arthur to be his literary agent, he sets about to destroy Sherlock and falls into a real life Holmes mystery along the way when murdered young women start appearing across his path.
In the present, newly inducted Sherlockian Harold White celebrates his membership into the exclusive Holmes fan club, the Baker Street Irregulars. On the morning of the most important Irregular meeting in history, the presentation of the missing diary of Arthur Conan Doyle, Harold is pulled into his own Sherlock novel when the man who found the diary is murdered and the diary goes missing.
Alternating between these two mysteries, The Sherlockian flows along quite nicely in the beginning. The plots are intriguing and, like a good mystery, keep you turning the page. But about a third of the way in a shift in the writing can be felt, a twist in the flow. No longer was I reading a mystery whose words carried the story. Suddenly I could feel the presence of the author, his hand in the way things were turning out, his decisions in making a clue appear here or there. It caused me to step back from the book and view it as a piece of the author’s work, not a natural thing of its own.
I know a good book because the writing works for itself, the characters carry me along, not the author. When I can sense an author at work, I am removed and the book feels clumsy and even contrived. Sadly, The Sherlockian became that for me. The writing was still decent, but Harold became an annoying, weak character instead of a charming Holmes enthusiast, and Arthur Conan Doyle became a silly, bumbling detective instead of the writer of great mysteries.
Overall I became underwhelmed by The Sherlockian about half-way through. I persisted out of curiosity to see how Moore would solve the mystery of the diary, but in hindsight, I’ve already forgotten what kept me turning the page, and I only finished reading last night.
(I received an advance copy from the publisher for review)