It doesn’t say anything good about a book when the best thing you can say is, The dust jacket is great.
But that’s the situation with The Sherlockian, a novel by Graham Moore, told in alternating chapters between a 1900 mystery involving Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, and a present-day mystery involving incoming Baker Street Irregular Harold White.
The dust jacket is evocative of the traditional Holmes oeuvre, yet also contemporary with a die-cut bloodstain, giving a hint of the hidden, crimson silhouette of Holmes embossed on the front cover. Good stuff.
It’s a shame that the novel, however interesting if you’re a true Holmes fan, is simply non-engaging — and I’m a Holmes fan. Two pairs of the Holmes-Watson dynamic, their intertwining narratives taking place in both 1900 and today, do not add up to the originals, or even to the derivative Holmes novels of Meyer, Estleman or Saberhagen. And the nods to both the historical facts regarding Doyle’s lost diary and the basic tenets of the Holmes stories are fun, but aren’t good enough to either demand a sequel, or to consider this a groundbreaking pastiche or homage — whichever you prefer.
Bottom line: The Sherlockian did not meet my expectations. But I do ask a lot of fiction. If you’re a diehard Holmesian, read it — and I hope you enjoy it.
I just wish I had.