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The Sherlock Holmes Revival

Where to start when discussing the most played character in English literature? For now (and to stop this blog post from turning into the thesis it could so easily be), I’d like to share my undying love of the last two reinventions of Sherlock Holmes on the big screen and the latest novel as endorsed by the Arthur Conan Doyle estate.

With Robert Downey Jr reprising the role in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows this December, and Benedict Cumberbatch returning to BBC’s Sherlock in March 2012, Sherlockians have some delicious material heading our way soon. Right now though, we have Anthony Horowitz‘s House of Silk to tide us through. It has been very warmly recieved at the Guardian, garnering high praise in the face of very high expectations:

So, all of the elements are there: the data, the data, the data. Nothing of consequence overlooked. And yet can Horowitz, like Holmes, make from these drops of water the possibilities of an Atlantic or a Niagara? Can he astonish us? Can he thrill us? Are there “the rapid deductions, as swift as intuitions, and yet always founded on a logical basis” that we yearn for?

Emphatically, yes.

– The

Though I am nowhere near an academic Sherlockian, I adore the stories and especially love the reinvention they are enjoying now. Guy Ritchie has kept Sherlock’s original setting but explored the character; Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss have lifted young Sherlock from Victorian London and placed him in modern-day London, with all the wonderful tools that a consulting detective might need. Both are a joy to watch, especially since a thorough knowledge of the books will be rewarded with the hundreds of references peppered throughout. What I especially enjoy is the rescue of poor Doctor Watson from his usual portrayal as a grateful idiot trailing after Holmes. Martin Freeman in Sherlock and Jude Law in the Guy Ritchie adaptations have both made Watson more than equal to Holmes. Watson has always been a steady gun, a character witness, a moral compass and an extra pair of eyes, but he is also the first to call out Sherlock’s misogyny and berate his drug use. When the first volume of stories was published in Strand magazine in the 1890s, cocaine was available in pharmacies and only lightly cautioned against. Watson, voice of Conan Doyle, condemned the use of the drug decades before his time. The sections including Holmes’ drug use are always excised from children’s editions, which is a pity considering the anti-drug message.

So, until A Game of Shadows is released in December, pick up a copy of House of Silk to tide you over from!

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