Monday, December 12, 2011

{Review} The Sherlockian: A Novel by Graham Moore

the novel in question
The Sherlockian: A Novel by Graham Moore
Published by Twelve, 2010
Hardcover, 350 pages
ISBN 0446572594
Genres: adult fiction, historical fiction, mystery, thriller

Synopsis: Harold White is a nervous, bumbling twenty-eight year old who has been in love with the stories of Sherlock Holmes since he was a child. He fancies himself a serious Sherlockian, though he is employed as a private consultant for certain film studios, employing his extensive knowledge of literature to help them when sued for plagiarism and such. He is thrilled to find out that he is being accepted into the Baker Street Irregulars, though his joy turns to shock when one of its most respected members appears to be murdered. The dead man is Alexander Cale, a Sherlockian who has dedicated his entire adult life to finding a diary written by Arthur Conan Doyle, missing for over a hundred years. Only a few months before his death, Mr. Cale had announced his having discovered the diary and his plan to unveil it to the Baker Street Irregulars. However, no such book is found upon his murder and Harold takes it upon himself to channel Sherlock Holmes and his theories to track down the diary and Cale's killer. A second story-line develops around Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself, which spans several years. It begins with his throwing Sherlock Holmes off of the Reichenbach Falls, though ultimately channeling his creation's techniques when he is pulled into investigating the sordid murders of several young girls.

 My review: I started this book two weeks ago and finished it this afternoon, after having pushed my way through the majority of it over the weekend. I had to get some momentum going, otherwise it was in danger of ending up on my re-re-re-renewed shelf on Goodreads. I'm sorry to say I'm pretty disappointed. To be fair, The Sherlockian isn't terrible, especially seeing as it's the author's debut novel, but it didn't hold my attention especially well nor did it have any tidbits that put me on the edge of my seat.

The characters are not particularly engaging or relatable, and I felt no emotional attachment to any of them; this is a particularly disappointing aspect of the book for someone who has been known to fall in love with a fictional character or two (*ahem*). In fact, at certain points during the story I felt such intense dislike for Harold I wanted to cause him bodily harm, and I'm pretty sure that is not what the author is going for. I expected him to become a geeky, unlikely hero- you know, the inept, bumbling, lovable genius with no common sense and zero social skills who suddenly appears on the scene and, against all odds, saves the day. Well, he is certainly bumbling but not lovable. All of the characters are also strangely two-dimensional, especially Sarah Lindsay, who accompanies Harold on his quest and should have developed dramatically throughout the book. Her becoming Harold's love interest was also sadly predictable as well as completely unbelievable.

To be honest, the chapters involving Arthur Conan Doyle are a little bizarre. Sir Conan Doyle did, in fact, assist Scotland Yard with some of their cases, but in the novel his experiences are portrayed as being melodramatic beyond belief. It also feels a little libelous to have a well-known historical figure be portrayed as a cross-dressing, gun-toting vigilante (who fires said gun directly at someone's head, no less). I understand the author is taking an "artistic liberty", but there must be a limit somewhere. In addition, the facts about Sir Conan Doyle's life are given in the tone of an almanac: dry and succinct, reminders to the reader that they are, in fact, reading about the real-life author of Sherlock Holmes.

While I don't feel this book was a complete waste of time, and there are some semi-interesting plot points, I would recommend it only to those who (a) already have an intense love for Holmes and Doyle, (b) don't mind a fairly slow story, and (c) don't have high expectations of books belonging to the "historical fiction" genre. This was a fairly strong start to Graham Moore's writing career, and I look forward to his future works, though The Sherlockian is ultimately underdeveloped and forgettable.
Mary Beth


  1. Nice review! I really love the blurb- it sounds like it might have been a good book. Too bad.

    Ana @ BookSpark


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