Mystery Books for Sale

[ Home ]
[ About | Reviews | Search | Submit ]


by June Thomson
Allison and Busby, April 2004
220 pages
ISBN: 0749006986

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

There are footnotes in the forward of THE SECRET NOTEBOOKS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES. Before the first sentence is finished, there's a little raised number directing your attention to the bottom of the page. This is foreshadowing, because one out of every three pages in the book has a footnote. It's distracting, like trying to watch a play while seated next to one of those annoying people who can't shut up. Footnotes explaining history, footnotes explaining the text, footnotes repeating the text, footnotes referring you to other footnotes, footnotes that spawn footnotes themselves.

The forward is a tale of mysterious manuscripts found moldering in a trunk, a Sherlockian prologue as familiar and traditional as the national anthem before a ball game. In this case, Dr John H Watson's writings eventually ended up in the hands of Dr John F Watson (no relation). It's this second Watson who keeps intruding on the narrative to tell us the obvious, the unnecessary, and the known -- most of the footnotes explain who a character is or what happened in Sherlockian canon, something I would expect the reader to be already familiar with.

This is not the first pastiche I've read that made a point of proving how every little detail came from Conan Doyle. I tend to end up wishing that the author spent more energy on the plot than on the research, and this book is no exception. The notebooks consist of seven short stories with straightforward mysteries that are solved with little effort -- mental or physical -- on Sherlock's behalf. In the first story, The Case of the Upwood Scandal, the great detective even exclaims: "It was sheer good luck that I realized [the solution]."

Sherlock Holmes! Calling on luck! It would work in a parody, but there's no hint of humor here. Holmes' classic deductions from observation don't show up until the next to last story. The Case of the Vanishing Barque is the only one that has that blend of mental acuity and action that finally sweeps the reader into feeling that the game's afoot by gaslight.

If you don't need a footnote to tell you who the Baker Street Irregulars and Mycroft Holmes are, if you already know where Sherlock keeps his tobacco, THE SECRET NOTEBOOKS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES is not for you. However, the simplistic stories and the explanatory footnotes would probably work well for a younger reader, someone who is too old for Basil of Baker Street but doesn't have the vocabulary or historical background to deal with Doyle's stories yet.

Reviewed by Linnea Dodson, October 2004

[ Top ]



Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

[ About | Reviews | Search | Submit ]
[ Home ]