The Holmes Affair by Graham Moore. Book review

The Holmes Affair by Graham Moore. Century ‘12.99

Reviewed by Mike Chinn

New York 2010: Harold White ‘ just inducted into the Baker Street Irregulars ‘ investigates the murder of Doylean scholar Alex Cale at the Algonquin Hotel; a murder that has echoes many famous Holmesian cases and revolves around a lost diary of Arthur Conan Doyle. In the London of 1900, Doyle himself, angry and perplexed by the public reaction to him killing off his loathed consulting detective, and goaded by Scotland Yard’s apparent indifference to both a girl’s gruesome murder and a letter bomb sent to Doyle, vows to solve the mystery himself.

Moore has a history of scripting for TV and film, and it shows in the short, snappy chapters, flipping back and forth effortlessly over a hundred years. The story never flags as each character, along with their own particular Watson (Bram Stoker in Doyle’s case, reporter Sarah Lindsay in Harold’s), follows clues, is lead up blind alleys, theatened and tailed. The end of gas-lit London is well evoked: electric lighting slowly replacing it, driving back the foggy shadows in which Holmes’ world forever hid. The diary is the book’s McGuffin: illusory, forever out of sight, constantly being chased; the very axis of the mystery. Why did Doyle go back to writing about Holmes after several years (beginning with The Hound of the Baskervilles)? And why is the later Holmes so much darker than the pre-Reichenbach Falls version? What happened to Doyle during the intervening years ‘ and will it be in the diary?

I have a few minor quibbles: some unfortunate Americanisms find their way into Victorian England, especially towards the book’s end, as though author or editor were growing careless. Autumn is constantly referred to as Fall; and I’m sure no one, not even the youngest, most radical of suffragists, would refer to someone as ‘you dummy.’ Many of the minor charaters in 1901 sound like they’ve just stepped off the set of a Basil Rathbone-Holmes movie (although I grant that might be deliberate ‘ contemporary Brits sound genuine enough). But these are tiny faults and easily ignored. Highly recommended.

The Holmes Affair by Graham Moore. Century ‘12.99

Reviewed by Mike Chinn

New York 2010: Harold White ‘ just inducted into the Baker Street Irregulars ‘ investigates the murder of Doylean scholar Alex Cale at the Algonquin Hotel; a murder that has echoes many famous Holmesian cases and revolves around a lost diary of Arthur Conan Doyle. In the London of 1900, Doyle himself, angry and perplexed by the public reaction to him killing off his loathed consulting detective, and goaded by Scotland Yard’s apparent indifference to both a girl’s gruesome murder and a letter bomb sent to Doyle, vows to solve the mystery himself.

Moore has a history of scripting for TV and film, and it shows in the short, snappy chapters, flipping back and forth effortlessly over a hundred years. The story never flags as each character, along with their own particular Watson (Bram Stoker in Doyle’s case, reporter Sarah Lindsay in Harold’s), follows clues, is lead up blind alleys, theatened and tailed. The end of gas-lit London is well evoked: electric lighting slowly replacing it, driving back the foggy shadows in which Holmes’ world forever hid. The diary is the book’s McGuffin: illusory, forever out of sight, constantly being chased; the very axis of the mystery. Why did Doyle go back to writing about Holmes after several years (beginning with The Hound of the Baskervilles)? And why is the later Holmes so much darker than the pre-Reichenbach Falls version? What happened to Doyle during the intervening years ‘ and will it be in the diary?

I have a few minor quibbles: some unfortunate Americanisms find their way into Victorian England, especially towards the book’s end, as though author or editor were growing careless. Autumn is constantly referred to as Fall; and I’m sure no one, not even the youngest, most radical of suffragists, would refer to someone as ‘you dummy.’ Many of the minor charaters in 1901 sound like they’ve just stepped off the set of a Basil Rathbone-Holmes movie (although I grant that might be deliberate ‘ contemporary Brits sound genuine enough). But these are tiny faults and easily ignored. Highly recommended.