Partha Basu takes Arthur Conan Doyle’s master detective Sherlock Holmes and shows him as well as many of the cases that Baker Street fans are familiar with, in a wholly different light.
The primary narrator is Jit, who comes across the secret diaries of Dr.Watson, the original chronicler of Holmes’ adventures. One one hand, the diaries recount the stories that were never formally published, with ‘mid-words’ from one Emma Hudson, whose identity is also a little mystery, and which add multiple layers to the official adventures, and on the other, we have Jit’s story and that of his parents, and how they happened to be in possession of the diaries.
Partha Basu seems to have done quite some decent research, though whether the tales he has chosen were the best possible for this exercise would always be debatable according to personal Holmes favourites. But the concept itself is very interesting and adds multiple perspectives to the iconic character of Holmes, and to a certain extent to Watson’s too. This is more so because Holmes has always been the one on whom the focus has been on, while Watson has been content playing the foil to the superb skills of Holmes’ mind. Here, they seem to share the stage almost equally in terms of focus with Watson even outwitting Holmes in one case.
So ‘The Scandal in Bohemia’, ‘The Illustrious Client’, ‘The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax’, ‘The Speckled Band’, ‘The Three Students’, ‘The Solitary Cyclist’, ‘Abbey Grange’ are all taken apart and reset in terms of either characters or circumstances as events that happened either before or after the case was published are brought to light, Characters and their motives are suddenly shown differently, thereby revealing that all may not have ended well. The book also gives a hat tip to the unofficial Holmes work – written by one Seamus Hyde.
I also like the expressed aim of the author – to get more people to read the original works of Sir Conan Doyle. Its not very easy for a Holmes fan to be told that the master detective may have been wrong more than once – either in the specific context, or for failing to grasp the larger picture, and that he may have had character flaws that were significantly worse than portrayed in the published works, but if you can live with that, this book is a very interesting read for Holmes fans. I quite liked the touch of Holmes (once) corresponding with Arthur Conan Doyle.