| It is often said that reports of detective cases are like jokes and puzzles. That is, they can only be enjoyed once. Having got "it", you can derive no further joy from getting it again. Not so with Sherlock Holmes. I have read his 60 cases again and again with increasing pleasure. |
The case which fascinates me the most, however, is not in the canon. It is a sort of meta-case, which could be called The Mystery of the Missing Manuscript. In The Case of Abbey Grange, you will remember that Sherlock Holmes mentioned a book he was writing which summarized, in the form of a manual, the principles which guided him during his cases. When Holmes criticized Watson for sensationalistic aspects of his narratives, the patient Watson - in one of the few occasions in which he got annoyed at Holmes - said Why don't you write them yourself? Here is the reply (with your indulgence, I'll read any quotes from the canon to ensure absolute accuracy):
/ will, my dear Watson, I will. At present, I am, as you know, fairly busy, but propose to devote my declining years to the composition of a text-book which shall focus the whole art of detection into one volume. [ABBEY GRANGE]
We know Holmes only through the writings of Watson, just as we know Socrates only through the writings of Plato. We tend to consider those "middle-men" as the world's foremost authority on their subjects. However, each person is the world's foremost authority on themselves. Whereas Holmes and Watson had a long and fruitful collaboration, there are large periods of the life of Holmes to which Watson did not have access. The most dramatic period was, of course, the "Great Hiatus", between 1891, when Watson assumed that Holmes had died [THE FINAL PROBLEM], and 1894, when Holmes reappeared disguised as a book-seller [THE EMPTY HOUSE]. In the two cases, written by Holmes himself, Holmes explained that the good Watson had deserted me for a wife [THE BLANCHED SOLDIER] and that the good Watson had passed beyond my ken [THE LION'S MANE].
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