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review 2018-04-06 15:08
Move over Sherlock!
The Complete Brigadier Gerard - Arthur Conan Doyle

The Brigadier Gerard may be one of A.C. Doyle's most fully realized characters.  Unlike Holmes, who, delightful as he is, is two dimensional at best, the Brigadier is a fully fleshed out man with all of the baggage that goes along with it.  As he sits in his cafe surrounded by friends sipping wine, spinning yarns about his old days in the Great Army, Gerard has more than a little in common with Mr. Mulliner of the Angler's Rest.  His stories range from laugh-out-loud comic, to deeply tragic, to the silently poignant, but at the center of them all are the stirring adventures of the Brigadier, "all spurs and mustaches, with never a thought beyond women and horses."  He will win your admiration and your affections if you give him the chance.  Highly recommended.

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review 2018-03-29 10:50
Von Herzschmerz und Mord
Eine Studie in Scharlachrot - Arthur Conan Doyle

Der gute Mister Sherlock Holmes. In "Eine Studie in Scharlachrot" begegnen wir ihm und Mr. Watson zum ersten Mal. Eine kuriose Begegnung, die gleich zeigt, was für ein verquerer und verschrobener Vogel doch Holmes ist. Aber nicht ganz so bizarr wie ich ihn mir manchmal vom Hörensagen vorgstellt habe. Sicherlich, so richtig gesellschaftskonform ist er auch nicht ("Wen interessiert schon das Sonnensystem? Es hat ja doch keinen direkten Einfluss auf mein Leben"). Manchmal frage ich mich sogar, ob er nicht einige autistische Züge hat mit seinen Inselbegabungen. Aber das sei mal so dahin gestellt.

Die Geschichte verliert keine Zeit und springt quasi direkt in den Fall, der die Londoner Polizei und Watson vor lauter Rätsel stellt. Nur Holmes scheint gleich den Durchblick zu haben. Daran lässt er Watson, und somit auch den Leser, beschränkt teilhaben - genug um an der Stange und neugierig zu bleiben. Und plötzlich ist der Mörder geschnappt und man sich nur fragt: "Hä?? Wie jetzt?" und wird damit allein gelassen. Denn spontan wechselt der Spielort und alle Figuren. Zunächst etwas verwirrend, bis man schnallt, dass das die Vorgeschichte ist. Aber eine kleine Vorwarnung wäre schon nett gewesen. Nichtsdestotrotz ist auch die Vorgeschichte spannend und mit Herzschmerz versehen. Am Ende finden die beiden Geschichten doch noch zusammen und Sherlock Holmes bietet seine grandiose Schlussfolgerung (war ja fast selbsterklärend und offensichtlich... ;-D).

Eine schöne, kurzweilige Geschichte, die ein gutes Maß an Spannung und Liebeskummer bietet. Man bleibt ein Holmes-Fan

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text 2018-03-27 21:51
Eine Studie in Scharlachrot - Arthur Conan Doyle

Was mich ja zuerst total überrascht hat, war das zierliche Format dieser ersten Sherlock Holmes Geschichte. Der große Detektiv in einem so flumselig dünnen Taschenbuch? Tja, hat dann aber doch bis zur letzten Seite gefesselt. Ich verstehe die bis heute anhaltende Faszination total: ein hochintelligenter, verschrobener Charakter mit Sidekick, der Prototyp eines Marvel-Superhelden (hallo Iron-Man), gemixt mit unlösbar scheinenden Kriminalfällen. Die originalen Holmes und Watson können meiner Meinung nach auch mit modernen Adaptionen mühelos mithalten, auch wenn man natürlich hier und da merkt, dass das Buch in einer anderen Zeit geschrieben wurde. 

Mein einziger Kritikpunkt ist, dass mitten in der Handlung völlig unvermittelt angefangen wird, eine neue, scheinbar nicht zur vorherigen Handlung passende Geschichte zu erzählen. Diese ist wirklich ebenso interessant und fesselnd wie die vorherige Handlung (in meinem Fall vielleicht sogar ein bisschen mehr), aber man fragt sich doch, wo denn Mr. Holmes und überhaupt London auf dem Weg verloren gegangen sind. Nun ja, zum Ende findet alles wieder zusammen und ich werde auf jeden Fall mir weitere Werke Conan Doyles zu Gemüte führen (und vielleicht noch einmal A Study in Pink anschauen :).  

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-03-25 02:29
Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Final Problem
Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection - Arthur Conan Doyle,Stephen Fry

It is with a heavy heart that I take up my pen to write these the last words in which I shall ever record the singular gifts by which my friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes was distinguished. In an incoherent and, as I deeply feel, an entirely inadequate fashion, I have endeavored to give some account of my strange experiences in his company from the chance which first brought us together at the period of the “Study in Scarlet,” up to the time of his interference in the matter of the “Naval Treaty”--an interference which had the unquestionable effect of preventing a serious international complication. It was my intention to have stopped there, and to have said nothing of that event which has created a void in my life which the lapse of two years has done little to fill.

The Final Problem was published in 1893 and was meant to be ACD's last Holmes story. The author had grown tired of the Consulting Detective taking up all of his focus as a professional author, and tried to free up his time and his mind for more worthy projects. 

At least, ACD created a fitting final appearance for Holmes. He goes out in style. 

 

The Final Problem is a tough story to review. It's a story that hits home hard for any fan of the series, not just because of the ending, but also because we see Holmes pushed to the edge. He's showing cracks - Watson notices his looking run down. He's been beaten up, and Holmes himself remarks upon his mental state:

“Yes, I have been using myself up rather too freely,” he remarked, in answer to my look rather than to my words; “I have been a little pressed of late. Have you any objection to my closing your shutters?”

The reason for this is that Holmes has met his match. 

“He is the Napoleon of crime, Watson. He is the organizer of half that is evil and of nearly all that is undetected in this great city. He is a genius, a philosopher, an abstract thinker. He has a brain of the first order. He sits motionless, like a spider in the center of its web, but that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows well every quiver of each of them. He does little himself. He only plans. But his agents are numerous and splendidly organized. Is there a crime to be done, a paper to be abstracted, we will say, a house to be rifled, a man to be removed--the word is passed to the Professor, the matter is organized and carried out. The agent may be caught. In that case money is found for his bail or his defence. But the central power which uses the agent is never caught--never so much as suspected. This was the organization which I deduced, Watson, and which I devoted my whole energy to exposing and breaking up."

In trying to expose Professor Moriarty, Holmes exhausts himself bringing down his organisation bit by bit, and at the same Holmes time is being hunted.

 

 

The final problem arises while Holmes and Watson are seeking respite in Switzerland. They are pursued even there, and the hunt is forced to its crisis at the now famous Reichenbach Falls: 

It is indeed, a fearful place. The torrent, swollen by the melting snow, plunges into a tremendous abyss, from which the spray rolls up like the smoke from a burning house. The shaft into which the river hurls itself is an immense chasm, lined by glistening coal-black rock, and narrowing into a creaming, boiling pit of incalculable depth, which brims over and shoots the stream onward over its jagged lip. The long sweep of green water roaring forever down, and the thick flickering curtain of spray hissing forever upward, turn a man giddy with their constant whirl and clamor. We stood near the edge peering down at the gleam of the breaking water far below us against the black rocks, and listening to the half-human shout which came booming up with the spray out of the abyss.

 

And then all that Watson is left with, all the we are left with, is one of the most gut-wrenching letters in literary history:

"I am pleased to think that I shall be able to free society from any further effects of his presence, though I fear that it is at a cost which will give pain to my friends, and especially, my dear Watson, to you."

That letter gets me every time. ACD could hardly have chosen a more dramatic ending to the series at the high time of Holmes' success.

How shocking it must have been to read this story as a follower of the series at the time it was written, at a time when this really did seem like the end for Holmes and Watson.

Of course, we now know that there are more stories, but at the time, the public reaction to this story was so strong that ACD was eventually persuaded to continue the series after all. 

 

But what about the story itself?

 

Apart from the high drama and the ultimate proof of the friendship between Holmes and Watson, and incidentally, the reassurance that Holmes, contrary to popular belief, does care about the other people in his life - including Mary Watson, there is another aspect of The Final Problem that I always ponder on. It is this one, the first ever meeting between Holmes and his nemesis, Professor Moriarty: 

“‘ You evidently don’t know me,’ said he. 
“‘ On the contrary,’ I answered, ‘I think it is fairly evident that I do. Pray take a chair. I can spare you five minutes if you have anything to say.’ 
“‘ All that I have to say has already crossed your mind,’ said he. 
“‘ Then possibly my answer has crossed yours,’ I replied. 
“‘ You stand fast?’ 
“‘ Absolutely.’
To me this is one of the most beautiful depictions of the duality of the human mind/spirit/whatever. It's the Jekyll/Hide, the ultimate light/dark side stand-off, and it is happening in a sitting room. While the focus of this story is often described as the altercation at the Reichenbach Falls, the more interesting challenge is fought at the first face off where Holmes and Moriarty could almost be two sides of the same coin - they would even complete each other's sentences except they don't even need to exchange statements at all because they already know what the other is thinking!
 
To me this is one of the great scenes in the canon.
 
I also love that he chose the Reichenbach Falls as the setting. However, it is a choice of location that in my reading may also carry a more personal connection for the author.
I'll need to resort to another ACD biography for back-up but from the horrible one I finished last week (Andrew Norman's Arthur Conan Doyle: Beyond Sherlock Holmes) it appears that the trip to Switzerland was an ad hoc trip on account of his wife having been diagnosed with tuberculosis. Like so many other sufferers, they believed that the Alpine air was a cure for the illness, and they stayed for quite some time (I believe she also returned there), but to no avail. She eventually died from tuberculosis a few years later.
 
So when reading this story, I was wondering of course if ACD, with his medical knowledge, had some inkling about whether his wife would recover.
No antibiotics at the time meant that 50-60% of TB patients died within 5 years.  
 

In many ways, The Final Problem is one of the saddest stories in the canon but also one of the most beautiful because it shows off so much about the human side of the characters, their friendship, their failings, their vulnerability. Of all of the stories, this one haunts the fictional world of 221 Baker Street like no other. 

 

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review 2018-03-22 17:43
Didn't Love it, Didn't Hate it
The Sign of the Four - Arthur Conan Doyle

I don't see me re-reading this in the future. It's not a bad book, just not compelling. Reading about Holmes going in deep with his cocaine addiction is not interesting. And Watson hoping the case they are looking into keeps Holmes engaged is not that interesting either. If anything, I would say this book was just a big step towards Watson's development of a character (he meets the woman who is to become his wife).

 

"The Sign of the Four" has a woman (Mary Morstan) coming to Holmes and Watson in order to find out why someone keeps sending her a pearl on the anniversary of her father's disappearance.  Holmes agrees to take the case with he and Watson trying to track down what everything means. 

 

I have to say though that there is so much coincidence in this book it was a little hard to swallow. Also there are just random things inserted in this story...one word, crocodile. I started to wonder if Doyle was on cocaine when writing this story. 

 

We find out what happened to Mary's father, but I thought the whole thing sounded beyond hinky. And then from there we get to a young man who is behind sending Mary the pearls. I did want to go though really you decided in the end to send this woman a pearl a freaking year? Anyway, I could be here all day pointing out the weirdness and strange happenings in this story that defy common sense. 

 

I can't say much about Holmes beyond his views on women are appalling (and normal for the time I would say) and him being on cocaine made me wonder how he could even complete deductions at all. It sounds sickly based on Watson's description of him in the book. 

Watson seems a bit fed up at times with Holmes, but keeps hanging in there.


There's also a dog in this story (Toby) that made me think of the Agatha Christie book (Dumb Witness) which made me wish I was reading an Agatha Christie book. 

 

The writing was okay, but the flow was off through the whole book.

 

Some lines in the book though made me go, how did we go from brilliant amateur detective in "A Study in Scarlet" to this I am so into cocaine person we get in "The Sign of the Four."

 

"Which is it to-day?" I asked,—"morphine or cocaine?" He raised his eyes languidly from the old black-letter volume which he had opened. "It is cocaine," he said,—"a seven-per-cent. solution. Would you care to try it?" "No, indeed," I answered, brusquely. "My constitution has not got over the Afghan campaign yet. I cannot afford to throw any extra strain upon it."

 

Gee. If someone I was living with was all here is some cocaine I would be out of there. Also is 7 percent a good thing or what? I am not a coke head so I don't know.

 

"None. Hence the cocaine. I cannot live without brain-work. What else is there to live for? Stand at the window here. Was ever such a dreary, dismal, unprofitable world? See how the yellow fog swirls down the street and drifts across the dun-colored houses. What could be more hopelessly prosaic and material? What is the use of having powers, doctor, when one has no field upon which to exert them? Crime is commonplace, existence is commonplace, and no qualities save those which are commonplace have any function upon earth."

By the way most of this book is Sherlock being a total pill. 

 

"The division seems rather unfair," I remarked. "You have done all the work in this business. I get a wife out of it, Jones gets the credit, pray what remains for you?" "For me," said Sherlock Holmes, "there still remains the cocaine-bottle." And he stretched his long white hand up for it.

Lord. 

 

The setting of the book goes from England to India and I didn't get much a sense about India when we get bogged down with a re-telling of what went down with some of the characters we heard about earlier in the story. 

 

I just found myself getting bored and when we get to the ending where all is revealed via dialogue. I was just glad to be done. What a weird story in the adventures of Holmes and Watson. 

 

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