I love a good mystery. Heck, I love a mediocre mystery. I think it all started in my early working days, when Murder, She Wrote became my Sunday night escapism before having to face Monday morning. So I’m always searching for something to fill that void. Recently it’s been The Adventures/Memoirs/Return/Casebook (pick one) of Sherlock Holmes on PBS.
Before this summer, I think I’d read only one Sherlock Holmes mystery, “The Speckled Band,” and that was as an assignment in a literature class. I didn’t much care for it, so I never pursued Arthur Conan Doyle. But this summer I decided to give the “cozy mysteries” a rest and pick up a Sherlock Holmes volume. Turns out most of the mysteries are short stories. And even the “novels” are more like novellas. Just perfect for a slow reader such as myself. I started with a collection that included all the short stories up to “The Final Problem.” Curiosity piqued, I then read the first 2 novels, A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four. I haven’t read anything beyond “The Return of Sherlock Holmes,” but I will at some point.
My library creates what I call “unpamphlets.” They’re just a piece of colored paper cut in thirds (about the size of a business envelope) listing various books to try. For instance, “If you like John Le Carré (whom I do, but usually can’t follow), you’ll like…” and then lists a bunch of books of similar vein. One of these lists is titled “Beyond Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.” I decided to branch out and read one of these books. While the Irene Adler series interests me, I ended up choosing Sherlock Holmes and the Hapsburg Tiara by Alan Vanneman, mostly because much of the action takes place aboard the Orient Express. It was ok, but reading about Watson having sex made me want to stab my eyes out. Thus, I wasn’t interested in reading the author’s first book, SH and the Giant Rat of Sumatra until Holmes, in a recently aired episode (I don’t remember which one), mentions traveling to Singapore with Watson to investigate “the giant rat of Sumatra.” (The book was published in 2002.) Taking a casual remark and making it into case intrigued me.
Until I saw the reviews at Amazon. It received a whopping 2 stars. And The Hapsburg Tiara? 1½. Looks like I’ll be reading something else.