The Whole Art of Detection: Lost mysteries of Sherlock Holmes
By Lindsay Faye
Faye’s best Holmes tales, including two new works, are brought together in The Whole Art of Detection, a stunning collection that spans Holmes’s career, from self-taught young upstart to publicly lauded detective, both before and after his faked death over a Swiss waterfall in 1894. In “The Lowther Park Mystery,” the unsociable Holmes is forced to attend a garden party at the request of his politician brother and improvises a bit of theater to foil a conspiracy against the government. “The Adventure of the Thames Tunnel” brings Holmes’s attention to the baffling murder of a jewel thief in the middle of an underground railway passage. With Holmes and Watson encountering all manner of ungrateful relatives, phony psychologists, wronged wives, plaid-garbed villains, and even a peculiar species of deadly red leech, The Whole Art of Detection is a must-read for Sherlockians and any fan of historical crime fiction with a modern sensibility.
Growing up I loved watching any version of The Hound of the Baskerville’s that I could find, and as an adult I love watching Sherlock, and I loved reading The Adventure of the Speckled Band in school. This is the first time I have read a book with Sherlock Holmes in for many years.
This collection of short stories features never-seen-before cases of Sherlock Holmes. It was entertaining, funny and educational - there were a number of words peppered throughout whose meaning I had to look up.
The first tale in this collection was The Case of Colonel Warbuton’s Madness. It begins with the following words:
“My friend Mr Sherlock Holmes, while possessed of one of the most vigorous minds of our generation, and while capable of displaying tremendous feats of physical activity, when the situation required it, could nevertheless remain in his armchair perfectly motionless longer than any other human being I have ever encountered.”
The collection is full of information like this and observations made by Dr Watson on Sherlock Holmes and Vice versa. This book is essentially a study of a timeless friendship and provides numerous insights into the character of Sherlock Holmes. It made me think of the friendship portrayed so clearly in the TV series Sherlock.
“It has long since been a dictum of my internationally celebrated friend Sherlock Holmes that work is the best antidote to sorrow. As his biographer, therefore, I have been given occasion to wonder whether the almost superhuman effort he himself expends over his cases is relevant in this credo. When at work, he is an indefatigable automaton: dashing hither and thither consulting all relevant parties, weighing the value of data to hand provided by the police, and more often discovering clues everyone else has overlooked. When idle, however, he is a listless creature, hollow-eyed to a degree which ever causes me the deepest sympathetic consternation…so mournful does he appear when inactive that I shall never rule out the possibility of some tragedy having befallen my friend.”
The most touching moment for me was when Sherlock attempts to cheer Dr. Watson up when he is thinking about his dead wife Mary and Sherlock fears he is not the best person for the task.
“I wanted to contradict him, for he was egregiously wrong on two counts. First, he was not the worst person on earth to trust with confidences, for he never pitied the giver of them, only listened with focused impatience or silent sympathy, which is why such a hubbub of strangers continuously clattered up and down his staircase begging for his help. He was, in fact, the foremost keeper of confidences in London – and he create the profession no less. Second, be the person a mother, a brother, a sister, a friend or some other beloved ghost, I by 1897 knew him to be mistaken in suggesting he lacked for feeling entirely. “
It stays true to the portrayal of Sherlock Holmes as a dry, witty and sharp man who can come across as harsh and unfeeling but is surprisingly sentimental at times.
If you enjoy Sherlock Holmes cases then this is the book for you.
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