Sunday, April 8, 2012
Sherlock Holmes: The White Chapel Horrors
The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Whitechapel Horrors by Edward B. Hanna plays at "What If?" What if Sherlock Holmes were a real person? (Gasp! Who could doubt it?) And what if he had investigated the horrible murders committed by Jack the Ripper? For surely, the Great Detective would have been called in on such a notorious case.
There is no doubt that Hanna knew his Holmes. He was a long-time Holmes buff and a member of the Baker Street Irregulars. And he most definitely had done his research in Ripper lore. Though a work of fiction, the novel is meticulously footnoted. Those who are well-acquainted with the Holmes canon may say, too much footnoting--he chooses to footnote material that anyone who knows the least bit about Holmes and Watson should know--but better too much than not enough. Hanna has used the Holmes canon and the facts of the terrible murders in 1888 and blended them into a dandy little tale. And it is very interesting to follow Holmes on the track of one of the most notorious killers of all time.
Almost 500 pages long, the book flies by (I finished it in a little over the day) and I didn't want to put it down until I got to the end. Hanna gets almost everything right. Almost. I quibble with bits of his portrayal of Watson--I maintain that the doctor is too good-hearted to espouse some of the derogatory comments and prejudicial beliefs Hanna attributes to him. Yes, some of the comments about the poor and certain races living in London were true of the day--but surely Hanna could have presented those details without putting them in the mouth of the good doctor. Watson does in a lot of ways represent the stalwart British man of his time, but not in all ways.
My other quibble is the ending--or rather the lack thereof. It is very disquieting to follow Holmes throughout the story and be left hanging at the end. We aren't told who the Great Detective believes Jack the Ripper to be and we are supposed to believe that at the end of the day Holmes doesn't even know. That Holmes is no more enlightened than the police. That is not the Holmes we know.
Overall, a good tale. Hanna makes it very believable that Holmes could have investigated this case. And the blend of fact and fiction is very good. An enjoyable read worth three stars.
For one thing, life's affairs all too often did not come to a conclusion, satisfactory or otherwise. They simply stopped--abruptly, artlessly, without a shrug of apology. All too often there was no proper finish, no clear resolution or sense of finality, no ending at all; merely a cessation of activity. All too often there lacked that indispensable element of drama, that sense of wonderment, discovery, and surprise--those essential twists and delightfully serpentine turns leading inescapably to the neat and tidy ending the reader of fiction had come to expect (p. 391)
I suppose you can say that he warned me....