Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Elementary? Not so much.

I've been putting off writing about The Shadow of Reichenbach Falls by John King for about a week now, I guess because I'm still not sure what to say about it. While I was looking for the cover image on Amazon, I checked out some of the reviews. And I'm beginning to think that reading this book without having re-visited the Sherlock Holmes stories in years is a little like reading a Harry Potter fanfic after having only seen the movie, or knowing the most basic outline of the plot. You may have enjoyed it, or hated it, but you don't really have the necessary context to evaluate it.

There is a whole world of Sherlock Holmes out there. There are conferences, societies, listservs, fan pages, and podcasts. There are magazines, meetups and those who write their own Sherlock Holmes stories. helps Sherlock Holmes fans find their own kind on the web and in real life. This novel is most likely aimed more at them than at me, who read many of these stories in childhood and has only the dimmest recollection of them.

Coming from that perspective, Reichenbach was enjoyable enough. It's extremely fast-paced and only took me a couple of days to blow through all 352 pages. King introduced two (I assume) new characters: a young, educated drifter named Thomas Carnacki, and Professor Moriarty's daughter, Anna, who loved her father but hated and feared what he had become. They are both present when Holmes topples over the Reichenbach Falls, and help fish him out, protect him from the mystery man he was fighting with and escape from his clutches while he regains his memory. Along the way, of course, they fall in love.

Watson makes an appearance, of course, and we learn Professor Moriarty's backstory. One Amazon reviewer was very scathing on this aspect of the story, as it introduces an element of the occult, which is (I guess) not in keeping with the logic and reason Holmes generally employs. The thing that irked this non-Sherlockian most in the book was an anachronistic reference to an icepick leucotomy, a procedure not developed until the 1930s (even then, I don't believe they had an "icepick" version. I'd have to re-read The Lobotomist more closely, and that just ain't happening tonight).

The book did make me want to re-read some of the old Sherlock Holmes stories, though. They're available on the web, but I hate reading lengthy stuff that way. I may check them out from the library, but I don't ever see myself becoming a "Sherlockian". It's waaaaay too geeky for me. Now, if you readers will excuse me, I have to go do some quests on my blood elf mage.