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97 of 107 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thrilling novel about our deep need to know
Graham Moore has written a novel that takes place in two different periods: the turn of the 20th century - which was the end of the Victorian era in England - and the increasingly muddled present. Loosely based on real events, this fascinating novel suggests that the era in which Sherlock Holmes and his creator flourished exists in a kind-of golden glow in our modern...
Published on November 3, 2010 by Michael Birman

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75 of 83 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars For fans of Sherlock Holmes
Brief summary and review, no spoilers.

This story is told in alternating chapters, starting off in the 1883 as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is contemplating killing off his fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes. The next chapter takes us to the present as we are introduced to Harold White, who has recently been invited to be a member of the prestigious Baker Street...
Published on November 19, 2010 by sb-lynn


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97 of 107 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thrilling novel about our deep need to know, November 3, 2010
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This review is from: The Sherlockian (Hardcover)
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Graham Moore has written a novel that takes place in two different periods: the turn of the 20th century - which was the end of the Victorian era in England - and the increasingly muddled present. Loosely based on real events, this fascinating novel suggests that the era in which Sherlock Holmes and his creator flourished exists in a kind-of golden glow in our modern imagination. According to Moore the primal source of the mystery story is an innate need to know that lays deep within us all. And the protagonists in both eras actively involve themselves in two great mysteries. In 1900 Arthur Conan Doyle figuratively dons the mantle of his creation Sherlock Holmes. He is aided by his close friend Bram Stoker (the author of Dracula) who serves as a fiercely loyal stand-in for Watson. The two writers are thrust into a dangerous search for the murderer of several young women. It is nearly the end of Conan Doyle's self-imposed 7 year long hiatus from new Sherlock tales following the 'death' of Holmes at the hands of Professor Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls. It is also a period of political upheaval in which women are demanding the right to vote while men - and Conan Doyle is one of the most vocal opponents - seem solidly entrenched in opposition. The nascent modern era appears to have been crystallized in these events as the hideous murders that Conan Doyle and Bram Stoker pursue reveal several bitter surprises.

In 2010 a top Holmes scholar claims to have discovered Conan Doyle's long-sought diary covering those first few crucial months in 1900. The diary quickly disappeared after Conan Doyle's mysterious entries and remained lost for more than a century. Soon after the announcement of this critical discovery the scholar is found murdered. Young Harold White, a Sherlock Holmes devotee and recent inductee into The Baker Street Irregulars (the chief assemblage of Holmes buffs) has discovered the scholar's body. With a mysterious young woman acting as HIS Watson, the increasingly excited and ambitious White is also thrust into the Holmes role. The two investigations continue in tandem in alternate chapters. As the mysteries deepen - and their ramifications profoundly resonate through the years - we are skillfully led into several areas of thought. The author uses these events to broach the notion of the mystery tale as a metaphor for some of the deeper conundrums that haunt our lives and hopes. The need to know is deeply ingrained into the human psyche, assuming prime importance even as the illusions of the main characters are stripped away one-by-one, leaving them utterly exposed and vulnerable. The author wields his spare and crystalline prose like a scalpel, dissecting his characters to reveal the bitter truths that lay at their core. It is a bravura performance by a young writer of obvious talent. The Sherlockian is an exemplary novel. It is more than a mere mystery: it is an exploration of the conflicted human heart and our unceasing need for illumination, no matter how faint the light and obscure its revelation. There is one minor complaint: I found the ending somewhat predictable, written with one eye towards Hollywood and the need for a dramatic ending ripe for filming. But that disappointment failed to negate what went before. This is a superb novel.
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75 of 83 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars For fans of Sherlock Holmes, November 19, 2010
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sb-lynn (Santa Barbara, California United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Sherlockian (Hardcover)
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Brief summary and review, no spoilers.

This story is told in alternating chapters, starting off in the 1883 as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is contemplating killing off his fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes. The next chapter takes us to the present as we are introduced to Harold White, who has recently been invited to be a member of the prestigious Baker Street Irregulars. He is the youngest member, and he has earned his invitation by his extensive knowledge of all things regarding Holmes and by his having written an article in the Irregulars' quarterly publication called The Baker Street Journal. To say he is excited is an understatement.

As we go back and forth in time in these alternating chapters, we follow Arthur Conan Doyle (teamed up with his friend, Dracula author Bram Stoker) as they investigate a serial killer. We see how Doyle was castigated by Holmes fans for killing their hero, and we find out why years later, Doyle brings Holmes back to life in The Hound of the Baskervilles. We also find out why he wrote the diary which went missing for so many years.

In the chapters that take place in the present time, Harold White also becomes involved in the investigation of a murder of a member of the Baker Street Irregulars - one who purportedly had a long missing and much sought after diary from Arthur Conan Doyle. Along with his "Watson", a young woman named Sarah, we resolve the mystery and find out what happened to that diary.

If you are a big fan of Sherlock Holmes and you are are familiar with Doyle's stories and novels I think you will enjoy this book. I thought the alternating chapter technique was used effectively, and I liked that. At the same time, in critique, this was not a page-turner for me, and when I'd put the book down I was not that eager to pick it back up. I was surprised to feel this way because I do love mystery novels, although I admit I am rusty on my knowledge of Holmes since it's been years since I read those stories. At the same time, this book did make me think about picking them up again and I appreciate that.
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Moore's a new player in the game. Good job., November 14, 2010
This review is from: The Sherlockian (Hardcover)
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This is a very good first novel. I usually do not like a parallel story format. Here, Moore alternates chapters between the present day characters and the historical A. C. Doyle with a famous friend. Surprisingly, he pulled it off. I think the key was the length of the chapters, each ending with a bit of a cliffhanger that made it easy to slip back into each story line on return.

The Product Description (unfortunately we have to click on "See all Editorial Reviews" above and look for it) nicely summarizes the plot without spoiling any of the story. In the style of good mysteries, we have a murder or two or maybe some more. We also have a missing volume of Doyle's diary. Of course, all the normal phrases from Sherlock Holmes come to mind as you read through the book.

The primary success of the book is Moore's writing - it's very smooth and he doesn't try to get in the way of the story to show his ability. That, in itself, showed his ability. The characters, though, are unevenly developed. We have the very well drawn and the very stereotyped. But, that doesn't particularly affect the story. (Our hero provides us with some enjoyable moments and it seems this could be the first of a series.)

The story, though quite fun, is too predictable too often. That is not a fatal flaw, because (again) the uniqueness of the story and the writing ability make a few problems forgivable. Unfortunately, it does make for a weaker overall impression than I was hoping for. This is well worth the time and a good addition to a mystery library - and definitely a better than average first novel.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much of the author's hand involved., December 10, 2010
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This review is from: The Sherlockian (Hardcover)
Graham Moore's debut novel has all the ingredients to be a delicious mystery. it opens with Arthur Conan Doyle and his dear friend Bram Stoker as Arthur debates the pros and cons of killing off his famed character, Sherlock Holmes. Filled with a bitter hatred for his character because all of London believes Holmes to be real, and Arthur to be his literary agent, he sets about to destroy Sherlock and falls into a real life Holmes mystery along the way when murdered young women start appearing across his path.

In the present, newly inducted Sherlockian Harold White celebrates his membership into the exclusive Holmes fan club, the Baker Street Irregulars. On the morning of the most important Irregular meeting in history, the presentation of the missing diary of Arthur Conan Doyle, Harold is pulled into his own Sherlock novel when the man who found the diary is murdered and the diary goes missing.

Alternating between these two mysteries, The Sherlockian flows along quite nicely in the beginning. The plots are intriguing and, like a good mystery, keep you turning the page. But about a third of the way in a shift in the writing can be felt, a twist in the flow. No longer was I reading a mystery whose words carried the story. Suddenly I could feel the presence of the author, his hand in the way things were turning out, his decisions in making a clue appear here or there. It caused me to step back from the book and view it as a piece of the author's work, not a natural thing of its own.

I know a good book because the writing works for itself, the characters carry me along, not the author. When I can sense an author at work, I am removed and the book feels clumsy and even contrived. Sadly, The Sherlockian became that for me. The writing was still decent, but Harold became an annoying, weak character instead of a charming Holmes enthusiast, and Arthur Conan Doyle became a silly, bumbling detective instead of the writer of great mysteries.

Overall I became underwhelmed by The Sherlockian about half-way through. I persisted out of curiosity to see how Moore would solve the mystery of the diary, but in hindsight, I've already forgotten what kept me turning the page, and I only finished reading last night.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Game Is Not Quite Afoot, April 10, 2011
By 
DRob (Arlington, TX United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Sherlockian (Hardcover)
I very seldom like the modern day attempts to write Sherlock Holmes stories because I find most of them to be a caricature of the great detective and not true to the man created by Conan Doyle. The main exception to that are the novels by Laurie King, largely because she focuses not on Holmes but on Mary Russell, the young wife who marries Holmes after his retirement. At first I felt that the Sherlockian might also rise above the usual attempts to recreate Doyle's genius as it focused, not on Holmes but on Conan Doyle himself in one time period and on young Harold White, an inductee into the Baker Street Irregulars in the current time period.

It is an interesting concept and I wasn't really bothered by Moore's technique of alternating chapters in each storyline, except I just couldn't get interested in the modern day story. I found White to be a weak, annoying character who really did not emulate Holmes all that well, but often seemed more like a bumbling Watson. The storyline of looking for Doyle's missing diary from the time period after Holmes "died" at Reichenbach Falls didn't do much for me and I found that as this storyline continued, it became more and more jumbled till it ended in what I considered to be a major cop out by the author.

I found the storyline focusing on Conan Doyle to be much more interesting and enjoyable, especially as so much of it mirrored what we know to be historically accurate. The use of Bram Stoker as a foil to Doyle's efforts to play Holmes added an interesting dynamic. I probably would have given the book a much higher rating except for the ending of this storyline which I found extremely abhorrent and out of character for what we know about Conan Doyle.

Would I read another book by Moore focusing on these characters? I doubt it. It took me a very long time to get into this book, and the only reason I expended the effort was because my husband recommended it to me and he knows my tastes well enough that I figured there must have been a reason. I did eventually get drawn into it to the point where I had a hard time putting it down, only to feel bitterly disappointed at the unsatisfactory ending of both threads. I am now left with a sense that I really wasted my time and would have been much better off quitting the book before I got too heavily involved in it.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Why?, January 31, 2011
By 
R. Mitra, mystery author "author" (Long Island, NY United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Sherlockian (Hardcover)
I know this book has been a NYTimes notable, and Marilyn Stasio has given it a favorible review. The query in the title refers to is it because it is a well written book or is it a good Sherlockiana?
To me: a die hard Sherlock Holmes fan and one who read many or even most of the Golden Age books, the answer is like this: Yes, it is a well written book and no, it has very little to do with Sherlock Holmes.
The interweaving detective stories do not work. It is an artifice that rarely succeeds. Just consider this: Arthur Conan Doyle and Bram Stoker are investigating a letter bomb that Doyle received, and this is 7 years after he killed off Holmes by pushing him off the cliffs of Reichenbach Falls. He had in the meanwhile been vilified by public for killing off such a popular character. What happened to these seven years? Instead the main story with Conan Doyle starts off just about two years before he published The Hound of the Baskerville. There is a very brief note to that effect in the last part of the novel. The mystery that Conan Doyle and Bram Stoker pursue is trivial, sordid and has very little Sherlockian deduction. And what bothered me most was that it did not throw any new light on Sherlock Holmes (contrast with the great Seven Percent Solution, the perfect Holmes reproduction). Even worse was the way Arthur Conan Doyle behaves! A gentleman brought up in the Victorian age, he was a man of propriety, as was Holmes. Holmes was a strict observer of etiquette and was a chivalrous man. So would his creator, a)Throw a rock at the 'gray stones of Scotland Yard'? b) use a very derogatory term (repeated several times in different part of the narrative by Mr. Moore)for women?
No, no and no.
Now, consider this too.
Bram Stoker's famous book Dracula (originally entitled The Un-Dead) came out in 1897 and was a sensational hit. Put it in the context of the last Sherlock Holmes story which came out four years earlier, who the public would remember better? No, matter, Stoker's having written the great Dracula is not even mentioned in the narrative, most of which happens in 1900.
Harold (and Sarah) who are the protagonists of the 2010 part of the story are investigating the disappearance of the 'lost diary of Arthur Conan Doyle'. No, I won't give away the secret, however inconsequential it might be. The writer cannot make up his mind whether to treat it as a thriller, where car chases, and bullets fly or a Sherlockian mystery with frequent allusions to the original Holmes canon. I could not undertand it at all. Not elementary, at all!
Yes, I'm disappointed; why? Sherlock Holmes remains the great bastion of classic detective stories with a character who would never be bettered (Yes, I can say that, more than a hundred years have elapsed and no one has come close, not even beloved Hercule). At least leave the creator alone.
In the Author's Note, while mentioning biographies of Conan Doyle, there is no mention of the first and one of the sincerest Life of Conan Doyle by John Dickson Carr: a devotee's tribute. I would ask the readers to go and find the book, many recent editions exist. It's a worthwhile, indeed a imperative read, for all fans.
Dead in a Gauzy Veil: A Mystery Story Set in Manhattan
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Over the Falls, December 27, 2010
By 
Richard Berg (Charleston, SC United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Sherlockian (Hardcover)
"The Sherlockian" is a novel I wanted to like, and that often goes a long way. Alas, the book did not quite live up to my expectations, for several reasons. On the one hand, the plot and structure do show a nice level of creativity, and Mr Moore has tackled a unique view of Sherlockiana. But the book is too long by one-third, the two main protagonists are, at best, annoying, the others are thin cardboard, and its not really a whodunit, but really a What Happened and Why. While I like much of the real Holmes oeuvre, I have found Doyle a difficult man to like, especially as he grew older. I was more drawn to his "Watson", Bram Stoker - one of the few characters with any sort of depth - and too bad Moore didn't find a way to work Oscar Wilde into the plot (other than tangentially; you can always count on Oscar to liven up any proceedings.)

Perhaps more telling is the lack of style I got from Mr Moore. The book has some substance, but not enough style. Moore's a raconteur - and not a great one - not a compelling author.

What I did find interesting was how much of the "fiction" had actually happened! That elevated what I felt was a two-starrer to three.

rhb
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Maybe a little too `elementary' school..., July 24, 2012
By 
Andrew Ellington (I'm kind of everywhere) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Sherlockian (Hardcover)
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So, I've never read any of the Sherlock Holmes novels. I've also only seen like three Sherlock Holmes movies. I think it's safe to say that I just haven't been a fan, or all that interested or just plain preoccupied. One way or another, I never got around to investing time into expanding my Sherlockian views. That said, this book sounded intriguing, and I do tend to blind `select' based on cover art. I was drawn to the cover art here, for it looked flashy and clever and witty. It made the book seem fun. That is something that I can easily praise this book for. Graham Moore wrote a very fun novel. It is a breezy read and one that I raced through in just a few days.

Sadly, there are glaring flaws that make this a novel less than it could have been.

`The Sherlockian' jumps back and forth between two times. In one story, we follow Arthur Conan Doyle, the man behind the myth, as he peruses the foggy London streets in 1900 in pursuit of a killer of women (no, this is not `The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo'). In the other story we follow Harold White, a Sherlockian (man obsessed with Sherlock Holmes who has read all of his books and studies his history for something or other) who has found the dead body of a man named Alex Cale who claimed to have found the long lost missing diary of Arthur Conan Doyle. These two stories interlock mainly because the time period covered in that missing diary is the time period in which Doyle is playing Sherlock.

As a complete story, `The Sherlockian' is fun. It isn't that smart, which is a major letdown. Being a novel wrapped around the complexities of Sherlock Holmes, I was expecting something more inspired. The twists aren't all that shocking and so they don't add any intensity. The modern-day story is somewhat ridiculous to an extent, and the pairing of Harold and the mysterious Sarah is bland and preposterous (the dialog that rests between them and the `story' concocted by Sarah is laughable). Moore's writing style is a tad too amateurish in parts, which takes away from the film's overall impact. Moore fares far better when he's circling 1900. The pairing of Doyle and Stoker is far more interesting, and their dialog feels quick witted and authentic. Sadly, the murder in either story is rather uneventful and not entirely well thought out. Unless you are writing for a weekly television show, you have to color outside of the lines a bit and create something more exciting.

At the books conclusion, I'm left a bit underwhelmed. In fact, while reading the Author's note (where he divulges what is true and what is false regarding this novel) I was spellbound by how interesting and compelling this novel would have been had Moore actually stuck to the facts. The inspiration for this tale is actually more engaging and exciting than what Moore created.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars As a long-time fan, I liked the Holmes parts best...., December 26, 2010
This review is from: The Sherlockian (Hardcover)
I have to give Graham Moore credit for a very original idea and for making use of events that took place in recent years about Sherlockiana. His use of alternating chapters - with one focused on activities in current times of a new inductee to the Baker Street Irregulars and the other focused on Conan Doyle's activities after he had killed Holmes off - is clever. Unfortunately, I found the modern chapters to be repetitious, non-suspenseful and rather elementary [no pun intended here] in terms of writing. On the other hand, I really liked the chapters dealing with Conan Doyle. Moore's creation of Doyle, based on his real-life writings and opinions, is brilliant and three-dimensional. While the book can be read by anyone, I believe that it will bring greatest enjoyment to those who are familiar with the Holmes canon. I began reading all the Sherlock Holmes books when I was in junior high school and they set me up for a lifetime interest in mysteries - including this one.

p.s. It's never too late to go back and start reading Holmes. Try "The Sign of the Four" as your first shot, if possible. After that novel, the short stories are wonderful.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Sherlockian, January 28, 2011
By 
This review is from: The Sherlockian (Hardcover)
I just finished reading THE SHERLOCKIAN. What a mess, despite the many terrific reviews. The writing was amateurish; the characters one-dimensional and both plots boring and without suspense.

I appreciate the research that must have gone into this book. The concept was intriguing: two intertwining plots, one present-day and one at the turn of the twentieth century, both touching on a missing Conan Doyle diary, and both informed by real events. And the ending did, indeed, tie both plots together.

But I'm afraid that's all I can say that's good about it.

Both detectives were bumbling, neither capable of finding their way out of a paper bag without the heavy-handed interception of the author. The regular alternation of short chapters of plot #1 with plot #2, repeated without variation, just added to the tedium. The Harold White plot went nowhere till the end. And the Conan Doyle plot, the better of the two, was a pastiche of several unrelated strands. Nothing fit together, which is, after all, what you'd expect in a detective story by the great Arthur Conan Doyle.

Yecch.
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The Sherlockian
The Sherlockian by Graham Moore (Hardcover - December 1, 2010)
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