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The Sherlockian    by Graham Moore order for
by Graham Moore
Order:  USA  Can
Twelve, 2011 (2010)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

They just keep coming! Here's another spin-off from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's iconic detective series featuring Sherlock Holmes. This time, though, Doyle himself is the subject of the novel. The mystery revolves around what has happened to the author's missing journal in which he recorded his most secret thoughts. More to the point, perhaps, it is the secret that the missing journal contains about Sir Arthur's life that is at the heart of this caper.

There are two sleuths featured in Graham Moore's stunning novel which unfolds during two separate time periods. First and foremost is Doyle himself who, along with his good friend Bram Stoker, plays detective and seeks to discover the murderer responsible for the deaths of a couple of young London suffragists.

Jumping from the turn of the century (1880-1901) to 2010, the second amateur investigator is a young member of The Baker Street Irregulars who sets out to discover who has killed a fellow Holmesophile who supposedly uncovered the Holy Grail, the missing journal! This quest involves not only unmasking the villain but also retrieving the missing journal.

In alternating chapters, the narrative flows back and forth between the two time periods and the two key characters. Although some of the characters and facts used in the Doyle chapters ring true, the bulk of what you are reading is obviously fiction. Nevertheless, that doesn't detract from the story nor what is a very enjoyable read.

There are some major surprises awaiting those who venture into this entertaining novel. Aside from the plot considerations, which I'll avoid so as to not ruin the story, one of the most fascinating aspects of the novel is the antipathy Doyle feels for his creation. Although Holmes is not a character in the story, his ghost haunts Doyle from start to finish. In fact, you might say what occurs here is the author's way of proving he is as clever and resourceful as his creation! Now think about that for a moment!

Another unusual facet of the plot that Moore raises is the question, 'Is not knowing how a mystery ends necessarily a bad thing?' Late in the story one of the characters remarks that of all the conventions of mystery stories, the one that should not be broken or disregarded is the solution.

Although one could end a suspense yarn with uncertainty where justice would not prevail and there was no resolution of the problem (crime), it would be a very unsatisfying experience for the reader. 'And that's what I love about Holmes,' continues the character. 'That the answers are so elegant and the world he lives in so ordered and rational. It's beautiful.'

Perhaps! The answers Graham Moore provides may violate this convention or, at least, bend it a bit!

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