Reviewed by the Fourth Tuesday Mystery and Book Club
by Graham Moore
Can you imagine wanting to kill the character that made you one of the most famous writers in the world? That is exactly what Arthur Conan Doyle did in 1893—he killed Sherlock Holmes! The public at the time was outraged. How dare he take away our favorite detective! Little old ladies, swinging their umbrellas, attacked Doyle in the street. He was advised by everyone on how to bring Holmes back. Doyle was even sent a mail bomb. People were certainly upset. Then Doyle, for no apparent reason, brought Holmes back from the grave after a seven-year absence. Why? What happened?
The author of this book, Graham Moore, takes these and other historical events and mixes them with fictional characters. He creates two mysteries in one riveting novel—tied together by a missing diary– in two time periods presented in alternating chapters. This approach worked well in the book because of the connections between the two events.
The first mystery takes in 1900. After deciding to kill off Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle is pulled into a mystery of his own. Two young women are murdered in unusual circumstances. His close friend, Bram Stoker (the author of Dracula) serves as his assistant, confidant and friend—or in other words, his “Watson.” They set out to find justice for the murdered girls and find that the path is quite difficult.
In the second mystery line from 2010, Richard Lancelyn Green, one of the world’s leading scholars on Doyle and Holmes, announces that he has found Doyle’s missing diary. Green is apparently murdered—strangled with his own shoestring. It appears that someone wants Doyle’s missing diary. This diary contains Doyle’s description of the events of his experiences in 1900. Harold White, a literary researcher, takes on the Holmesian role and sets out to solve the murder and to recover the diary. Harold also has a “Watson” although a much prettier one. Her name is Sarah, and she provides Harold with another mystery. Her puzzle is much more difficult for Harold to solve.
A weakness in the book might be that the characters are not strongly developed and as sympathetic as they could be. Doyle comes across as a grouchy, mean, self-centered, and not a highly principled man. He hurts some of those around him and that does not seem to faze him. This is not the Doyle that has been portrayed in his biographies.
The two mysteries move along in tandem, alternating chapters. You will learn much about Doyle’s life and work while being entertained by a fabulous young writer, Graham Moore. There is no real need to be a Sherlockian (one who is obsessed with things about Sherlock Holmes) to enjoy this mystery. We all agree quite strongly that this is a good book, and we highly recommend it.
Key Ideas from different club members:
Wasn’t crazy about the ending; Great reading experience, fabulous writer; Interesting format; I really liked it, good read; A clever historical fiction novel.
The Club Members rating of this book:
Linda Bowman, Mona Herrell, Pat Kuna, Bill Simmons, and Linda Troll
Club’s Average Rating: 4.4 of 5 Rating Range: 4 to 5