Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Adventure of the Eleven Cuff-Buttons: Review

The Adventure of the Eleven Cuff-Buttons by James Francis Thierry (1918) is thought to be the first novel-length Sherlock Holmes parody with "Holmes" as the central character.  "Doc" Watson recounts Hemlock Holmes's first British adventure after they return from a three-year stay in New York City--this explains why he and Holmes sound like caricature-versions of Americans abroad.  It doesn't explain why every other character--including the Earl of Puddingham and all the inhabitants of the manor also sound like they've been studying American slang.

Holmes is called to Nomanstow Towers to track down eleven of an even dozen diamond cuff-buttons which have been stolen from the Earl.  The famous detective is determined to find the missing buttons...not out of any interest in justice, but in the interest of adding the enormous fee to his bank account. Holmes examines shoes and questions all the staff and family from the Earl's wife to his younger brother to his wife's elderly Uncle Tooter and from the Earl's private secretary to his temperamental French chef to his German gardener.  Everyone has a theory about who might be thief--basically anybody but their honest selves.

This parody actually ventures beyond spoof to outright exaggeration--Holmes is over-the-top dismissive and not just abrupt, but down-right rude to everyone.  His contempt for the Yard, as represented by Inspector Barnabas Letstrayed, is at its highest level ever.  There is some humor to be found in this--but not as much as anticipated.  In my opinion, the funniest bits are in Watson's asides to himself and comments to Holmes when they are alone--for while, he is outwardly a fawning, loyal side-kick, he is inwardly wondering why "it was that I still continued to swallow such talk as that, when I knew it was my duty to rise up and paste him one in the eye for his sarcasms." The book is also made--if in any sense it is--by the illustrations by Rob Pudnim.  Two stars--for limited humor, Holmesian historic value, and the illustrations.  What keeps it from three stars?  The Americanisms--I got really tired of "hearing" Holmes say "gol-darned" and "chump" and worrying about his fee in American dollars.  Three years in the States doesn't change a British subject permanently. And the mystery just wasn't that engaging--as parody or as legitimate puzzle.

This fulfills the "Number" square on the Golden Vintage Bingo card.


fredamans said...

Awesome review. This sounds like a book the hubby would enjoy!

Bev Hankins said...

I was thinking about your hubby when I posted the review on your challenge--I remembered you commenting before that he likes Holmes (although you don't particularly).