January 10, 2011

The Sherlockian by Graham Moore: Review

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Yay! I'm starting the year with a fun and smart book: The Sherlockian by Graham Moore.

The Sherlockian alternates between 2010 and 1900. In 2010, a man has been murdered over the discovery of Arthur Conan Doyle's lost diary. The man in question is, Alex Cale, a member of the Baker Street Irregulars, a group obsessed with Sherlock Holmes. Alex was about reveal the contents of this mysterious diary when he is killed in his hotel room. Harold White is the newest member of group, out to prove himself. With the help of a pushy reporter, Sarah, Harold embarks on a journey to England to find out just what was in that diary that drove someone to murder.

Back in 1900, Arthur Conan Doyle is experiencing the events in the missing diary. He is trying to put the much loved Sherlock Holmes behind him. All of England mourns for the deceased detective and Arthur is sick to death of it. When a exploding letter with the message "elementary" comes to his house, Arthur is drawn to action with the help of his friend Bram Stoker. Where the mystery leads him will forever change the man he is and bring Holmes back from the dead.

I was impressed by Moore's characterizations of both fictional and real people. I don't think I'll ever be able to think of Arthur and Bram without thinking of them as they are presented in the book. They leap off the page as real flesh and blood people with both admirable qualities and serious flaws. Harold himself is lovably dorky with his silly Holmes hat and brilliant mind. He is adorable. His 'Watson,' Sarah, is a kick-ass woman with secrets she keeps close to her vest.

I'm not always a fan of using real people in fictional works but I was got so involved in the mystery it didn't matter to me. At first, because I'm such a book nerd, I was excited when Arthur speaks to Bram. I was all, "Arthur Conan Doyle is talking to Bram Stoker! And OMG they're talking about Oscar Wilde. I know that guy!"

funny pictures of cats with captions
I know that guy!
In reality, they all did know one another so it's not like that is a weird thing. I just get excited about silly things like that. Bram makes a perfect Watson to Arthur's Holmes, though neither one of them like that idea. There are some very funny moments between them.

It's not all fun and games, however. There are dark elements to the story. The Victorian back alleys are more than a den of sin, they represent a tragic flaw in society. Arthur also struggles with a quickly changing world while Harold attempts to live in a world he sees as 'simpler' than his own. It's difficult for both of them.

Moore does an excellent job of weaving fact and fiction together. It's a book to keep you guessing. Now I want to read the Sherlock Holmes novels.

Highly, highly recommended.

Thanks to Penguin for the review copy. Also thanks to the ladies from What's Old is New Again podcast for bringing it to my attention.

You can check out Graham Moore's blog too.

17 comments :

  1. Funny, you are recommending the books while PickyGirl (http://pickygirlfoodfilmfiction.wordpress.com/2011/01/10/the-sherlockian-by-graham-moore/) said, just this morning: disappointing. Who to believe? :-)

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  2. Why me, of course! ;) I guess from Picky Girl's review it comes down to whether or not the reader likes Harold. And I liked Harold. A lot.

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  3. Sounds like a fun book - I'll put it on my list.

    http://www.ManOfLaBook.com

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  4. I loved Harold too, Chris. Although we were starting to explore Arthur Conan Doyle's works for the show when I picked up "The Sherlockian," I hadn't gotten in very deep and it definitely inspired me to want to read more of Doyle's work, and more books adapted from his original Sherlock Holmes.

    Oh, and thanks for mentioning What's Old is New!

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  5. I've got a copy of this book and hope to read it soon. I'll look forward to it based on your great review. Thanks for sharing!

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  6. I liked this a lot. I loved Doyle's frustration with the Holmes obsession of the nation. The black arm bands when he killed him off? Hilarious

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  7. Hmm. We are supposed to get snow tomorrow. I guess I should run to the store and get this one.

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  8. Thanks for the shout out Chris! I agree with you that liking this book can hinge on whether or not you like Harold. I was a little "eh" about him at first, but hen I realized that he was young, green and just trying to get in there and take his shot. he does do some things that are not so smart though.

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  9. Man- I hope you'll enjoy it.

    Jen- That is one benefit of reading this!

    Kay- I hope you like it.

    bookmagic- It must have been very frustrating for him. But what a tribute to his talent!

    Brooke- Please do!

    Nicole- I liked his naivety and innocence even when he did stupid things.

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  10. I've never been a big Sherlock Holmes fan (only if I imagine him as Robert Downey Jr.), but I think I really want to read this one!

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  11. This is the second or third rave review I've read of this book - I'm looking forward to reading it.

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  12. I am looking forward to this book. I have the book and the ebook on hold at the library, so just waiting to see what makes it to me first. :)

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  13. I'm dying to read this book, and yours is actually the first review I've read of it.

    I had to laugh because I'm the same way with the "I know that guy!" I love getting references in a book, or in a movie or show. It's a little affirmation for me that I'm a bit smart. :) My hubby says it just means I know a lot of useless stuff. He's only half joking, I think! I argue it's not useless. When you get this stuff, when you know to what or to whom the person or author is referring, you get that much more out of whatever it is you're watching or reading.

    Thanks for the encouraging review!

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  14. This book is everywhere now! I am so glad it's gotten positive reviews nearly all around. I definitely want to get my hands on it.

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  15. I also have a copy I haven't read yet. Thanks for the review - I'm bumping it up closer to the top of the pile, because you make it sound fun.

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  16. I was really impressed with this book as well. Great review!

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  17. I just downloaded the excerpt on my Nook Color - looking forward to reading it!

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