Monday, 1 December 2014

Monthly Mini-Reviews: November - Sherlock Holmes Special

With the airing of Series 8, it's all been a bit Doctor Who crazy at Scribble Creatures over the last few months, and I feel I've been neglecting my other great fictional interest, Sherlock Holmes. November turned out to be a very Holmesian month with the release of Anthony Horowitz' Moriarty, a follow-up to his successful Holmes pastiche The House of Silk, and the opening of Sherlock Holmes: The Man Who Never Lived and Will Never Die, the new exhibition about the detective at the Museum of London. Pulling these facts together, I deduced that I should dedicate this month's Mini-Review post to the world of the Great Detective. Now read on - the post's afoot.

The Beekeeper's Apprentice

For many fans the premise of The Beekeeper's Apprentice and its many sequels is simply sacrilegious to the Holmes canon. It not only concerns Holmes' adventures after his retirement in Sussex - away from his synonymous London - but pairs him with someone other than Watson - Miss Mary Russell, a very modern (for the 1910s) young woman. Fans need not worry though as Laurie R King crafts a fantastic Holmesian pastiche, featuring a gripping mystery but with a strong heart in the growing friendship between Russell and Holmes. Russell herself is a very likeable character. She could come across as Mary Sue Russell as she worms her way into the circle of familiar characters - including a fleshed-out Mrs Hudson and her kindly 'Uncle John' - but she impresses us with her competence straight away. Like the best modern Sherlock Holmes stories, it is more invention than imitation but is peppered with pleasing references for Holmes fans who may be put off by the story's different take on Holmes. This fan, however, can't wait to read the next Mary Russell adventure.

Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Speaking of different takes on Sherlock Holmes, they don't come much more different than Guy Ritchie's blockbuster that reinvigorated the Great Detective's popularity, just a smidgen before Sherlock came along. When I first heard of this film I expected to dislike it but was pleasantly surprised. Its action-packed steampunk feel is infectious rather than annoying and, beneath the additions of fights and explosions that was made much of, the film sports a great 'Sherlock vs the supernatural' mystery that ends in a threat to the British Empire. And it finds time for cameos from Irene Adler and Moriarty himself. On the behind the scene documentary on the DVD, the cast and crew are eager to emphasise that their film is surprisingly close to Conan Doyle's originals. It's not but in this case that's no bad thing. Sadly I was less taken with the sequel but if they ever do a third film I hope it can reach the heights of this one.

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes 

As I had claimed November as Sherlock Holmes month, I couldn't resist a rewatch of my favourite Sherlock Holmes film. Generally forgotten in the filmography of revered director Billy Wilder, Private Life is an under-appreciated gem of a film, at times hilarious, thrilling and touching. Many criticise it for not delivering on its premise of exploring, well, you've read the title but I would say the film is clever enough to give a deeper look at the man beneath the logical mind while still providing a fun adventure about the Loch Ness Monster. The film was famously slashed by half of its original three hour running time before its release, but I really don't know how that extra time would have improved on the film as it is. I could go on but some idiot made this a post of mini-reviews. Instead, I'll let Past Me tell you some more about it here.

The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes

By the time he wrote his last Sherlock Holmes stories - or 'police romances' as he called them - in the 1920s, Conan Doyle was long past caring for his most famous creation but, thankfully, that does not show when reading The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes. Doyle clearly tried to spice things up for himself as some of these stories take unusual forms, in terms of narration - two stories are written from Holmes' perspective rather than Watson's and one is from an omniscient third person point of view - as well as narrative - one story, 'The Creeping Man', borders on science fiction. The other collections of the Canon are generally regarded more highly than this one but these twelve tales of deduction are still very enjoyable and essential for any reader of Sherlock Holmes. Despite his reluctance, we can be thankful that Conan Doyle continued to write for Sherlock Holmes all his life, giving us sixty fantastic stories that form the bedrock of an entire genre.

Pick of the Month: As I have only revisited the others on this post this month, the coveted prize has to go to The Beekeeper's Apprentice for introducing me to a new book series I must get my hands on. The choice was really quite elementary.

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