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Monday, 2 April 2012

Sherlock Holmes and The Tangled Skein by David Stuart Davies

For a moment this book threw me as very early in the narrative Holmes complains about current foreign policy which seemed odd when Watson famously stated in, A Study In Scarlet, that the great detective's knowledge of politics was feeble.

"Of contemporary literature, philosophy and politics he appeared to know nothing."

Was this a case of the author getting his subject wrong?  Surely not - after all David Stuart Davies is a renowned Sherlockian! But then when I thought about it I realised that Doyle himself had hardly been consistent on the subject of Holmes' political leanings or lack of - Doyle himself was a political animal who threw his weight behind varied campaigns, and he was not averse to using the Holmes stories to make a political point.This is most evident in His Last Bow (1917) which is a blatant piece of anti German propaganda. Mind you we were at war with the Bosch at this point.

And so when I stopped worrying about that point I was able to get into the story and in no time at all the author had transported me back to Doyle's universe. I found the style to be an admirable facsimile of Doyle's own narrative style, but by merging the universes of two vastly different authors and introducing Stoker's Dracula into the mix I found the book to be somewhat alien to real Sherlock Holmes. To be fair it's a riveting, well written tale but I found it difficult to take the Holmes V Dracula storyline seriously and to be honest I found it ridiculous.

The book comes doubled with The Shadow of the Rat which takes its influence from a reference in the Doyle story, The Adventure of The Sussex Vampire  - "Matilda Briggs was not the name of a young woman, Watson, ... It was a ship which is associated with the giant rat of Sumatra, a story for which the world is not yet prepared." The Rat was also mentioned by Nigel Bruce as Watson in the movies, The Spider Woman and Pursuit to Algiers.

The Giant Rat, whatever it was, is part of the Holmes universe whilst Dracula is not -  so maybe I'll enjoy that one a little more.

 To sum up then a well written book by an author who knows his Holmes inside out, but for me the mish-mash with Stoker just didn't work.

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