The Ubiquitous Holmes

The Great Detective: The Amazing Rise and Immortal Life of Sherlock Holmes, by Zach Dundas, (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), 336 Pages, release date 2 June, 2015

As Zach Dundas points out in The Great Detective, Sherlock Holmes is an ubiquitous figure in popular culture around the globe. For most of us who enjoy the Homes stories, that won’t come as any surprise. What is rather gratifying to learn is that Holmes has been a significant presence in popular culture ever since Conan Doyle created him.

The Great Detective offers many pleasures: a history of the stories, a partial biography of Conan Doyle, an introduction to past and current Holmes-themed publications, and descriptions of many of the locations Conan Doyle used in the stories. Dundas also throws in interviews with living writers who have taken up the Holmes theme themselves.

Dundas, and many of those he meets on his Holmesian quest, has a wonderful sense of humor, which adds to the pleasures of this book. He describes Watson’s constant attention to Holmes, warning “Sherlock, Sherlock, Sherlock! Our Watson is ripening into a strong candidate for a restraining order.” He refers to the Watsonian chronology, with its contradictions and gaps, as a “gateway drug” for those who grow increasingly obsessed with the stories. Of Basil Rathbone’s portrayal of Holmes in film, he notes “An acting treatise could be written on Rathbone’s use of his own eyebrows.”

If you’re a fan of Holmes in one or more of his incarnations (and if you aren’t, why aren’t you?), you’ll find yourself delighted by The Great Detective.

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