consider me pooped out. i’ve spent most of the day proof-reading — in two languages. first for my students and then a friend’s murder mystery. both received copious amounts of commentary. i feel like a hollow and dried out sponge now. which means: time for a whiskey and an episode of TNG before i crawl into bed and face another day of proofing tomorrow.
let’s turn to ACD plagiarizing himself this week. so, apart from the unusual 3rd-person perspective in this story, this is the week of new flatmates and old plots. billy the pageboy seems to have moved in permanently since watson has deserted 221b for a wife, and in order to catch the latest aristocratic criminal, holmes is revamping old
plot-points wax likenesses. so many things seem unchanged when watson ambles through the door:
please note the rather random and non-chronological order of the reviewed stories from this collection in the case-book. i am simply following in the order how they are printed in leslie s. klinger’s new annotated. and with that, let’s come to ‘the blanched soldier’, one of the last holmes stories ever written by ACD — but which for some inexplicable reason is listed in second place in the case-book.
let’s start off with one of the many footnotes kindly provided by leslie klinger. number 2 refers to the fact that this story here has been written by holmes and so mentions critique provided by D. Martin Dakin (with whom i have disagreed already on more than just one occassion) that BLAN has been written by a third party, since it differs vastly in style from MUSG and GLOR which have been told by holmes, too, and which are much better stories, craftwise. i find this a poorly reasoned argument, since we know that in both cases that holmes had told these two cases to watson. and if we’ve learnt one thing from reading the canon it is that the good doctor edits the shiz out of everything that has happened to the two of them, (a) to make the stories readable and exciting and (b) to disguise the identities of their clients. so my guess is that holmes and not some obscure third person is the author of BLAN and that Dakin, for some obscure reason, does not want to give credit to holmes ‘waxing lyrical’.
apologies for the delayed commencement of the discussion of the case-book of sherlock holmes. but after my return from london [ETA: this was in february and i am reposting this article from my sadly deceased previous blog], i had been sick as a dog for an entire week — and could have probably passed muster in a famous re-enactment of ‘the dying detective’ if push had come to shove. this week then, without further ado, brings the first story from the final collection of holmes-stories and a first faint light at the end of the tunnel of 60 reviews.
even after a break of three years without writing a holmes-story, ACD still had it in him to start off the tale with a charming opening that is telling much more about the relationship between detective and the doctor than an elaborate academic analysis of their dynamics:
written towards the fag end of WWI, this last of holmes’s cases, having been dragged out of his retirement in sussex as a bee farmer (i still think this is code speak!) like field marshall Blücher against napoleon, marks the beginning of parting with the detective. there is only one more collection of stories ahead — that’s another three months of reading and reviewing. and like the messrs holmes and watson are looking forward to retirement, i am looking forward to finishing this project of review madness. the parting will be bitter-sweet just like this last adventure in tieing up inept german spies.
one of my personal favourites has finally come up for the review this week. ‘the devil’s foot’ is one among those stories which i had read some three years ago during my first venture into holmesverse and it clicked with me completely. this is also one of the first episodes which i consciously remember having seen on telly way back in 2006 — only by the time i read the story, i had entirely forgotten about the ending. what stuck with me, though, was seeing the length of that nearly symbiotic friendship between holmes and watson.
to begin this week of reviewing the canon in a more or less comprehensible fashion, let’s start with this little gem of watsonian insight (which might actually proof increment for the solution of SHERLOCK 2.3):
this is one of those few stories for which the grAnada series took quite some liberties in adapting the story for an episode. i blame the lateness in the canon and the obvious lack of sydney paget’s illustrations. i have been pining over their absence for the past couple of weeks — and i won’t stop doing so before soon. but on the positive side, grAnada’s decission to relocate this story from continental europe to the lake district for part of the episode was a stroke of genious. because, first, it gave the doctor some initiative which he would have only been lacking had he been in 221b, being mother-henned by holmes.
this round of elementary sherlocking looks into the first incident (chronologically speaking) in which holmes fakes his death and worries watson out of his skull. by the time they went on the infamous hike across the swiss alps, watson shouldn’t have trusted holmes one inch when it came to his mortality. but the doctor is of a forgiving and forgetting kind.
the story opens with a reminder for the contemporary reader that above anything else, victorian london was a death trap for anyone with lung trouble. that infamous london fog that keeps holmes trapped inside 221b, being bored out of his skull and making life for watson quite difficult, was the result of heavy industry in combination with britain’s already humid climate. there’s a reason why the cities turned black from all the soot in the air. and on top of it all, the fog appears to stop crime. these are difficult days for difficult detectives. if only an obliging murder came along:
just to make things brief right from the start: i didn’t write down many notes because the story didn’t produce much interesting sub-text. and the mystery as such read like a crossover between DANC and VALL and seemed to make a great number of tiny nods into all sorts of directions without being really original. but here and there some nice characterizations of holmes and watson contribute to the whole picture.