|Sherlock Holmes: Observations
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
I’ve been reacquainting myself with Sherlock Holmes recently. I received a telegram recently informing me that there are now versions of his Adventures to be enjoyed on the tellytellybunkum box and at the talkies, so I thought I’d refresh my memory using one of those old-fashioned Bio-Optical Organised Knowledge devices. Anyway, I’ve made a couple of observations, in preparation for exposing myself to the potential ravages of other peoples’ interpretations of the OG Holmes. (I wonder if he would have approved of that nickname. Probably not.)
- The most annoying Adventure that I’ve encountered thus far was that of the Five Orange Pips. Holmes hears the case of a man who is clearly being stalked by a very clever killer and is under immediate threat of murder. So what does Holmes do? He sends the man home alone and tells him to wait there. This journey home takes place at night. It involves solitary walks through dark places, followed by a solitary late evening train ride.
The entirely expected outcome occurs.
Holmes is shocked.
This is so completely out of character that I’m not sure I’m willing to accept that this is a genuine Sherlock Holmes story. Holmes doesn’t make errors in judgment that are blatantly stupid. He occasionally makes calculated errors - say, when an attractive, clever woman is involved in a burglary. But he never does things that are mind-numbingly idiotic. To make this Adventure even more infuriating, Watson is sitting right there listening to this tale and could easily have accompanied the man. Verdict: No.
- The Adventures are told very bluntly and simply. There is little extraneous description except where it serves to illustrated Holmes’ cleverness. For instance, when he remarks that Watson has seen many patients that day and then walks the reader (and Watson) through the minute, detailed observations that led to him to that conclusion. The tales end with almost startling abruptness. There is no attempt to ensure that the murderer is convicted, the burglar is reformed or that the estranged young couple brought together again by the unraveling of fiendish machinations winds up living happily ever after. When the mystery is solved, the tale is done. The only exceptions seem to be when the perpetrators escape, in which case they are usually believed to have been passengers aboard the ill-fated Deus Ex Machina that sank tragically in a storm three months later, leaving no survivors. Verdict: Er, maybe?
I find it difficult to presume that either the film or television versions were able to hold to the brusque style of the source material. It’s enough of a jolt to find that Holmes has stopped talking and the next page starts another adventure afresh when you’re reading. I can’t imagine that this would work at all in visual media.