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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Review: Sherlock Holmes and the Titanic Tragedy

I am ashamed to say that I have never read any Sherlock Holmes stories. I made one attempt to read A Study in Scarlet, and I've seen all the episodes of the excellent BBC series Sherlock, but other than that, this glorified fan fiction by William Seil is the closest I've ever come to actually reading a Sherlock Holmes story. And as someone who has never read the real thing, even I can tell that this book is a disgrace to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

In this book, Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes, both now retired for some time, are recruited by the British government to assist a government agent, Irene Adler's daughter Christine Norton, in transporting secret government plans to America, on the doomed ship Titanic. Throw in Professor James Moriarty's brother, Colonel... James Moriarty, and a large cast, including a decisively creepy quasi-romantic subplot between Watson and a much younger woman, and you've got what seems to be the makings of a standard issue Sherlock Holmes fan fiction. And let's not forget appearances by Mycroft Holmes, Jacques Futrelle, and Captain Edward Smith, plus a name dropping of Winston Churchill. Unfortunately, this book somehow managed to see the light of day and was published under a British press.

This book is... oh, what's a good word to describe it... awful. Yes, it is just awful. To be fair, the prose is good enough, apart from a slight stylistic error. This error is the occasional use of words such as "snorted" in place of the word "said." If you don't find this objectionable, I invite you to snort the word "yes" (thank you to James V. Smith's You Can Write a Novel for this bit of advice) Anyhow, it's the substance that's really lacking. This story has absolutely no merit as a mystery. The main villains behind the plot aren't fleshed out very well at all, what with motivations and all that, the anticlimax is ripped right out of The Final Problem, the story in which Sherlock Holmes seemingly fell to his demise, and there are far too many characters to keep track of. This last complaint in particular is something that I cannot emphasize enough. When the first person to die was killed, I honestly couldn't remember who the heck that person was. The large cast also prevents everyone from getting a decent amount of character development, particularly Christine Norton.

The mystery itself is boring and predictable, lacking real depth and meaning. On another note, this book could easily be called "Dr. Watson and the Titanic Tragedy", as it barely features Holmes at all, instead focusing on the adventure of Watson. The whole point of Watson is to give a window through which we can observe Holmes. When Holmes goes off on his own, this isn't possible, and we're instead stuck with Watson and Futrelle mucking about in the Titanic's hold.

In the end, I'm tempted to say that reading this book was a waste of time, but no, there was some good to it. I'm now encouraged to actually read the real stuff. I'll see about adding Doyle's stories to my reading list.

RATING: 5/10

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