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Meyer's Holmes: the best of the best.
on July 31, 2000
Brilliantly done. I've been reading Doyle's Holmes stories for nearly thirty years; I read Meyer's _Seven Per Cent Solution_ when it was new and I still have my original copy. I've also read some of the other attempts to bring Holmes to life again in full-length novels, and in my own view Meyer is the only one who nails it.
Indeed he even improves on the original tales in some respects. His account of what _really_ happened between "The Final Problem" and "The Empty House" has the ring of plausibility, and it does far greater credit to Watson than many of Doyle's stories do.
Especially in the later stories, Doyle tended to treat Watson as an inept dunderhead, a practice unfortunately followed by some of his blinder imitators. Meyer's take is that Watson employed artistic license in order to bring out the brilliance of his companion, but that the real Watson couldn't have been such an incompetent idiot if he was both a trained medical man and the valued companion of the world's first consulting detective.
So in this "rediscovered" manuscript, Meyer does both of these Victorian gentlemen proud. The novel -- which is both an adventure and a warmly humane tale of Holmes's and Watson's friendship -- is sprinkled with touching scenes of genuine affection between the two lifelong friends; the good Watson finally gets his due as a companion and as a human being, and the not-so-bloodless-after-all Holmes comes vividly to life as well. One of the most moving moments (there are many) comes in Holmes's remark to Watson: "Never let them say you were merely my Boswell, Watson. Never let them say that."
I won't tell you where and when that remark occurs, and in general I won't spoil the novel for anyone who hasn't read it yet. But it's the sort of Holmes pastiche that reviewers like to describe as a "corking good read," and in this case they're right. Moreover, Meyer relies on the very best Holmesian scholarship (notably William S. Baring-Gould) on matters of chronology and other detail, though I'm sure some of the Baker Street Irregulars will be able to pick nits. If you enjoyed Doyle's stories, you'll love this one -- and _The West End Horror_, too. (I was less impressed by _The Canary Trainer_.)
[P.S. Most of you probably already know this, but just in case somebody doesn't: Yes, this is the very same Nicholas Meyer who directed the best of the _Star Trek_ movies. You'll find a bit of Holmes homage in _Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country_, which Meyer helped to script. Spock even quotes Holmes's dictum that "when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth" -- attributing it to one of his "ancestors."
Meyer also scripted and directed the film version of _The Seven Per Cent Solution_ -- which isn't as good as the book, I think, but the cast is terrific, especially Robert Duvall and Alan Arkin.]