Sherlock Holmes: The Unauthorised Biography
This book was an odd one. Presenting itself as a biography of the legendary detective Sherlock Holmes, it takes the point of view that Holmes, Watson and his nemesis Moriarty were real people and that Watson handed over his accounts of Sherlock’s adventures to author, Arthur Conan Doyle for publication.
Over the book, the author attempts to fill in the blanks in Watson’s version of the story. Watson himself admits in several of the stories that there are multiple cases that he has not documented, owing either to the need to keep the case secret, or the uninteresting result, when the crime is solved. There were sixty Sherlock Holmes mysteries published and the author suggests the man himself was involved with anything up to a thousand over his career.
The author attempts to fill in these blanks by creating a fictional account of Holmes’ upbringing on a country estate, his education and some notable cases, undocumented by Watson, that the detective could possibly have been involved with. These range from things like the Jack the Ripper case, a secret involvement in the war in Ireland (under the request of his brother Mycroft) to a variety of less famous murders that plagued the Victorian era. These cases are backed up by hints to other cases within the actual Sherlock Holmes stories as well as “newly discovered evidence” created by the author.
It’s an interesting premise and the cases, stories and fun facts that Rennison digs up from the Victorian era are interesting to read about. That said however, it’s hard to tell who exactly this book is written for. It’s not written for those interested in the Victorian era or true crime, because, while the cases detailed here were all seemingly true occurrences, their telling is rendered fictional by the inclusion of Sherlock Holmes, at the same time, it’s not really of any use to Holmes fans either, while it does offer a detailed history of the character, the new material supplied by the author has little to do with Doyle’s original stories, it's really just fan fiction, interesting, well researched fan fiction, but fan fiction nonetheless.
Despite that though, I did enjoy this book. It’s well written and well paced. Long enough to provide a decent amount of information but not so long that the novelty wears thin. I did enjoy learning about the mysteries that the author dredges up from the past and there are several humorous facts and stories from the era that stop the book from lingering too much on the dark side.
If you’re a fan of Sherlock Holmes, this is an enjoyable piece of alternate history for the character. Nothing in it is canon by any means but as a, what might have been, look at the character it’s pretty interesting.
One mainly for the hardcore fans perhaps, but a book worthy of a place on your shelf.
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