Anyone who has read even a few of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories featuring Sherlock Holmes knows that the author killed off his famous detective at the height of his popularity… but after eight years of public outcry reversed his decision and brought him back to life. Graham Moore, in The Sherlockian, gives the reader an entertaining glimpse into Conan Doyle’s motivation but goes a dozen steps further by juxtaposing Conan Doyle’s investigation of the murder of three young women at the turn of the 19th century with a modern mystery more than 100 years later. Chapters alternate between two perspectives. One focuses on Conan Doyle as he works out his hate-love relationship with the famous character he created and puzzles over the serial killings with the help of his good friend and fellow author Bram Stoker. (Who, in turn, contributes his theatrical talents to the hunt.) Leaping forward into the 21st century, we follow a young Harold White, a new inductee into the Baker Street Irregulars, the foremost Sherlock Holmes fan club. Connecting the action between the two time periods is Conan Doyle’s diary, the holy grail of Holmes worshippers, which is missing in 2010. Some say it no longer exists. But it appears to have been the motive behind the murder of a scholar in his New York hotel room during the Irregulars’ meeting. It becomes Harold’s mission to locate both the diary and the scholar’s killer, by using all he has learned from years of reading detective stories.
This debut novel is a stunner. From its deftly handled intrigue plot to its clever portrayal of the man who breathed life into Sherlock Holmes, the novel is a must-read for Doyle followers and anyone else who enjoys a convincing mix of mystery and historical detail.