Sherlock Holmes

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The great fictional consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes, is a boyhood hero of mine. I first picked one of Conan Doyle’s novels up, The Hound of the Baskervilles, when I was about eight. I was entranced by this other world of fog, criminals, loyal companions, and Sherlock Holmes. The Hound of the Baskervilles is unusual in a way, because Holmes is absent from the story for much of the narrative. Like nearly all of the stories in (what aficionados call) the canon, the story is narrated by John Watson, Holmes’s faithful friend and indispensable assistant. Most of the stories in the canon are shorter, but there are a few extended narratives (A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of the Four, Hound of the Baskervilles, The Valley of Fear) which I think are, in general, probably superior stories.

Sherlock Holmes has many admirable qualities, but Conan Doyle crafts a hero with dark shadows to deal with. Holmes is keenly intelligent, but needs constant stimulation or he falls into deep depressions and drug abuse. He is a gentleman, but is arrogant and dismissive of those who fail to understand his ‘method’ and it’s value. He has great insight into all around him, but little insight into himself. He is a loner who consistently reaches out to his friend, perhaps his only one, Dr John Watson.

The Holmes stories provide a window into another world, in some ways so similar to ours, in others vastly different. The differences are, perhaps, most noticeable in the areas of values, morals and ethics, but exist on much more mundane levels too.

I think, though, that Sherlock Holmes remains an enduring favourite because the stories are such good yarns, and reading them now takes me back to a childhood when opening a book could plunge you into a new world.

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