Don’t get too excited, this Saturday Selection isn’t about the fabulous Sherlock TV show starring Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch. But I will touch on the show in a bit, so maybe a pinch of excitement is okay.
Instead, I’m referring to the actual Sherlock Holmes books written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
To start, let me say, I’ve always been fascinated by movies and TV shows that have anything to do with the great detective (except Elementary, could not get into that). But oddly enough, I’d never read a single one of the books.
Then, instead of going to bed at a decent time one night, I got sucked into a show on PBS about the science of Sherlock Holmes. I had no idea a bunch of Brits had made a show called Sherlock that was in its third season, but this PBS program was basically a tie-in to the TV series. Not only did it draw me into watching the show, it made me want to give the books a chance.
That chance didn’t last long.
Not to sound lazy, but Doyle’s stories are a tough read for modern readers. We’re used to short paragraphs with plenty of dialogue to break up passages of text. The Sherlock Holmes stories feature LONNNNNNG blocks of dense text as Sherlock, Watson, or another character relate the details of the crime. There’s a tiny bit of dialogue, but then is followed by more LONNNNNG paragraphs as everything gets explained. Ugh.
I made it through one story and closed the ginormous collection.
A Better Option
But I was still Sherlock-curious so I did some cruising through my library’s downloadable book system and found the stories on audio. I snagged the first collection of stories and started listening.
And I can’t stop. Every chance I get, I have my earbuds firmly installed and have been devouring the books for the past several weeks.
Listening to the reading of the stories gives them the pace and life they deserve and pulls me in much better than the text versions. Plus, I love being able to read while I clean the house!
Makes the Show Even Better (Yes, That Is Possible)
Now, back to those Brits and that little TV show they came up with.
The latest version of Sherlock is set in modern times, but using numerous elements from Doyle’s work – sometimes very subtle elements. I get stupidly excited when I listen to a story and recognize what parts of it were used in such-and-such an episode and how aspects of the tales were tweaked for modern times. Then again, I’m easily entertained.
Variety? Surprisingly, Yes.
Many of the Sherlock Holmes stories follow the same formula: Watson and Sherlock are sitting around, someone comes to present a case, they go to the scene, and Sherlock makes his deductions. But the stories never feel formulaic. Each one is a different adventure and on a few occasions Sherlock is bested by his opponents.
And yes, Sherlock is a cocky jerk. How Watson puts up with basically being called an idiot over and over is beyond me. Still Sherlock is a good guy with strict morals and does love his friend, he just has odd ways of showing it.
Ready to Try a Story?
One of the longest of Doyle’s tales is “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” but it is also one of the best. Few of the Sherlock stories are creepy, but this one will give you a little case of the willies.
By the way, the Sherlock episode based on the story shows Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) deathly frightened of the hound, but in the story, Sherlock is completely calm and cool. As he always is, which is perhaps why Sherlock Holmes is such a draw to so many people. We would love to be that smart, we would love to be that clever, we would love to remain collected in the face of dastardly criminals and scary situations.
Nonetheless, if you’ve tried reading Sherlock Holmes and felt bogged down, try the audio books (especially the ones narrated by David Timson) and you’ll hear new life breathed into one of the classic characters of literature.
Looking for More Cumberbatch-as-Sherlock?
There’s no clue when Season 4 of Sherlock will be filmed or aired, but here’s a tip for those of you who can’t get enough of Sherlock or of Cumberbatch’s voice…an audiobook of Cumberbatch reading Sherlock. I’m not lying!
Okay, this isn’t the Doyle Sherlock. It’s written by John Taylor, but is so close in style to Doyle’s work, you won’t notice the difference…especially as you’ll be too enthralled with a certain voice.
The book is titled Sherlock Holmes: The Rediscovered Railway Mysteries (ISBN 9781609982669). Hopefully your library has a copy!
And don’t forget to check out Martin Freeman in the TV show Fargo on the FX channel.
And yes, I will be checking out 221b Baker Street while in London!
Your turn: Tell me what your favorite Sherlock story is.