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Up Close and Personal: Sherlock Holmes

It feels great to be back! My brief hiatus was due to my travels and then catching up with the final edits and cover design of my book scheduled for a December 2015 release with Srishti. The good news is we are making good progress and the cover should be out on Facebook very soon. I am excited and looking forward to your feedback!

In this edition and in the next few, I choose a topic close to my heart - looking at the private lives of the detectives we love. As a reader, I have always loved a thriller where I have been able to relate to the investigator as a human being. In my story, I have made sincere efforts to make Agni Mitra anything but an infallible, larger-than-life law enforcement machinery. And as we wait for Agni to share his life with us this December, let us revisit the lives of some of our favourite sleuths.

I look at Holmes this week.

In the accounts of Dr. Watson, Holmes comes across as bohemian and a tad eccentric. Holmes was also very apprehensive about destroying documents. (Here is one trait that I can relate to!) In the story "The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual" Watson says:

He had a horror of destroying documents .... Thus month after month his papers accumulated, until every corner of the room was stacked with bundles of manuscript which were on no account to be burned, and which could not be put away save by their owner...

Holmes did not hesitate to often 'bend the rules' - take recourse to lying, conceal evidence, break into houses - if he considered such acts as morally justifiable. 

He derived utmost pleasure in baffling hapless police investigator with his superior deductions - sometimes almost to the point of arrogance. He felt happy when his skills were appreciated and he responded to flattery. In some cases, he actually comes across as a showman, taking pains in creating rather dramatic traps to capture his culprits and making an impression on his 'audience'!

However, Holmes does not actually come across as someone chasing fame. In a number of stories, he lets the police take public credit for his work! He comes across as a good friend of the police, and in a number of cases, the police seeks his assistance in solving a tricky one, even when he is on vacation. A number of his clients, of course, consulted him instead of or in addition to the police investigators.

With the honourable exception of Dr. Watson, we really do not come across a lot of friends! In fact, in "The Adventure of The Gloria Scott", Holmes tells Watson that during two years in college, he made only one friend - Victor Trevor. Well - that surely is a boy who preferred keeping to himself!

His love for music, especially the violin, of course is legendary.

So is his love for addictive drugs, especially when there was a lack of stimulating investigations. We read about Holmes using cocaine. We also find him dabbling in morphine. We also find several references of the use of tobacco, smoking cigarettes, cigars and of course, the trademark pipes. 

And now, about Holmes' attitude towards women.

Watson sums up the scenario rather nicely as:

(Holmes)"manifested no further interest in the client when once she had ceased to be the centre of one of his problems"

In "The Lion's Mane" Holmes himself writes:

"Women have seldom been an attraction to me, for my brain has always governed my heart"

In "The Adventure of the Second Stain" Holmes says:

"the motives of women ... so inscrutable .... How can you build on such quicksand? Their most trivial actions may mean volumes ..."

Irene Adler of course deserves special mention. An ex-opera singer and actress who appears in "A Scandal in Bohemia" and then remains the most memorable female character in popular Holmes-lore as the only female character who challenged him intellectually and the only person who defeated him in a battle of wits. Holmes held her in high regard:

"To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler ... yet there was but one woman to him, and that woman was the late Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory."

That memory is kept alive by the photograph Holmes received as 'remuneration' for his part in the case.

Some stories are best left unfinished.

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