The lying life of Sherlock Holmes
October 19th 2021
Ok, so let’s clear something up: Sherlock Holmes in all of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short stories and novels on the famous detective never actually says the iconic phrase, “Elementary, my dear Watson.”
[I’m sorry to break it to you.]
True, he uses “elementary” and “my dear Watson” separately on a number of occasions but the two were never put together by the author. Where the phrase originated from has long been the subject of much dispute – some blaming P G Wodehouse, others a 1929 film adaptation and still others an early-stage play – but it has over the centuries undeniably become synonymous with Britain’s most famous sleuth.
To further shatter the illusion, I’m afraid that Sherlock Holmes never actually wears a deerstalker either – being a Victorian gentleman, he’d wear a top hat – and the curved calabash pipe we think of him smoking wasn’t really his pipe of preference – the stories telling us he preferred a clay pipe or a long-stemmed straight pipe. Don’t blame me for telling you this – it was actor William Gillette back in 1899 who adopted the iconic curving smoker; apparently it made him more easily identifiable from the back of the stalls in a theatre and was easier to grip between his teeth while delivering lines.
Whichever image you have of Sherlock in your minds today – whether Sir Ian McKellen, Robert Downey Jr., Clive Brooks or Benedict Cumberbatch – we’re celebrating today as Sherlock Holmes Day in honour of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s birthday.
Conan Doyle’s inspiration for his famous detective came about from a few key characters in his own life and era: one being a surgeon, Joseph Bell, whom he worked for at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh; and another Francis “Tanky” Smith, a policeman, private detective and master of disguise based in Leicester. First appearing in print in 1887, Doyle had wanted to kill off his creation in order to write more historical novels but a series of death threats from the sleuth-obsessed general public prevented him from doing so.
To celebrate Sherlock Holmes day today, we’ve selected some of our favourite recent detective novels for your delight and delectation.
The Marlow Murder Club by Robert Thorogood.
Meet Juddith Potts, the 77 year-old, whisky drinking crossword-setter for The Times newspaper. After witnessing a brutal murder, it’s up to her, a local dog-walker and the Vicar’s wife to solve the case. A truly hilarious romp through British murder mystery traditions. Fans of Agatha Christie will be delighted.
The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths.
Murder consultant Peggy Smith has spent her life devising grim and gruesome endings for a plethora of crime writers. So when she meets a mysterious end herself, it’s up to DS Harbinder Kaur to uncover the truth. A fantastic literary thriller for lovers of page-turning crime.
The Castaways by Lucy Clarke.
A plane went down over a remote Fijian island. One sister went down with it, the other left behind is determined to find out what really happened. An escapist and page-turning mystery that will have you racing to find out the truth.
The Windsor Knot by S J Bennett.
Queen Elizabeth II is rather unfortunate to have a somewhat saucy murder take place down the corridor at Windsor Castle. Will Her Majesty and her secretary be able to crack the case? A roaringly funny murder mystery with a majestic twist.
Murder on Mustique by Anne Glenconner.
From the real-life Lady In Waiting to Princess Margaret, comes this fabulous murder mystery set on the Caribbean island of Mustique. Smell the sea and taste the cocktails in this wonderfully escapist and thrilling read.
The Searcher by Tana French.
In remote Ireland, a boy has gone missing and ex Chicago police offer just wants to retire. When he agrees to take up the case, can he imagine what he’s getting himself in for? A darkly atmospheric and gripping story.
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Vicki & The LoveMyRead Team x