Friday, January 17, 2014

"Half a Book of Sherlock Holmes"

By A. Conan Doyle.
George H. Doran Co.
1915. 320 pages. $1.25
Serialized in The Strand, September 1914 - May 1915.
Available on Kindle.
Online HERE and HERE.

A full contemporary review:
We have been exaggerating the horrors of the war in Europe; for plainly it cannot be an altogether wicked war which has left Sir Arthur Conan Doyle enough leisure from his anti-German pamphlets to write another Sherlock Holmes volume. Holmes is here in the very first paragraph, relaxed in his dressing-gown, but still a formidable refutation of the argument about the disastrous mental effects of the drug habit. Never has the sure clutch of the Holmsian analytic method fastened so firmly upon the reader as in the opening pages of the new story.
The manner is, of course, essentially mechanical, but Sir Arthur has not lost the magic which makes his automaton a man. Dr. Watson has acquired self-confidence and poise and a rather pretty sense of humor; his mind, too, works a little faster, but he still manages to travel the required half-length behind the flashing intuitions of Sherlock Holmes.
The story in itself is good, if somewhat thin. One rather regrets to see Conan Doyle utilizing the ancient device of cross-examining the butler, the housekeeper, and the maids, ostensibly for the purpose of finding out who killed Mr. James Douglas, but really to consume space.
Even at that, the readable portion of the book ends half-way. The writer has employed the very same method he made use of in his earliest success, "A Study in Scarlet." It will be recalled that in the first half of that story an English mystery was to be solved. In the second half the author went to America, and to the time of the Mormons, for an explanation of motive. In "A Study in Scarlet" the interest was well sustained, even after the suspense was over. In the present story, based evidently on the history of the Molly Maguires, but brought up to date and placed in the Far West, there is very little interest of any kind.
The work is amateurish, and all the necessary information might have been conveyed briefly in the course of the main narrative. But half a book of Sherlock Holmes is better than a dozen books of almost any other kind. — "Current Fiction," THE NATION (March 11, 1915; scroll to page 282, middle bottom)

Category: Detective fiction

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