I am a Holmes fan. There, I’ve said it.
Actually, perhaps I should confess that as a child I was far more immersed in the natural wonder of Conan Doyle’s The Lost World and deeply scarred, to this day, by The Poison Belt. But the Sherlock Holmes stories made me happy too. Sure, there were no dinosaurs but we can’t have everything.
I still have my cheap plastic magnifying glass that accompanied me on many an adventure.* Unlike Holmes however, I investigated ant colonies far more frequently than crime scenes.
Whilst I was too young to remember Basil Rathbone, I remember sitting down too close to the heater and watching Jeremy Brett float around like an elegant mist—albeit a mist with with sharp edges. Back then, little me was frightened of this pointy, hawk-like Holmes and felt safer with the far more jovial-looking Watson. And of course, who could forget that classic of the 80s, Young Sherlock Holmes?†
Now—though they never really left—Holmes and Watson are back at the forefront of popular entertainment. From BBC’s Sherlock to Guy Ritchie’s film adaptations to CBS’s Elementary, we are spoilt for choice by these characters re-imagined in both the past and in the present (phew, I thought I’d never get to some kind of segue).
For those familiar with the stories, you know why they have endured for so long. It’s the same reason why so many “classics” last as long as they do. While the stories themselves are great and the mysteries intriguing, it is the relationship between these two characters that draws us in, time and time again. Quite frankly (until Turk and J.D. from Scrubs of course) no other fictitious friendship has ever come close. So for those, like me, who have revelled in their adventures and been intrigued by their bond, what could be better than reading fifty short tales of Holmes and Watson, Sherlock and John meeting for the first time?
Skipping between the late 1890s and the early to current 2000s, each tale is a glorious new vision into a meeting so fatefully inevitable this book could have comprised a thousand or ten thousand or, heck, a million ways they met.
Wendy C. Fries writes with such wonderful humour and joy, not one story falls short. Holmes and Watson are portrayed vividly and with such skill you do not need the date markers or hansoms or the London Eye to tell whether you’re in Victorian London or in modern London.
I must confess a few turns of phrase and occurrences, ever ever so slightly, nudged me out of a few of the Victorian London tales. However, you (and I) must not listen to the historical pedant in me as it is unreliable at best and uninformed at worst. I am no expert on Victorian London so I am willing to let my wandering thoughts lie.‡
My questioning of phrases aside, I would happily read The Day They Met – Volume 2. As far as I know, this is not a thing that is happening but maybe if I plant the seed… as the great Paul Kelly said, ‘from enormously successful and beloved characters small books grow, and go on to grow another volume’.§
* It’s falling apart now, the two plastic lenses askew, held together with Blu-Tac and hope. The adventures mainly consisted of me “running away” to the backyard with a cloth – containing at least four Teddy Bear biscuits and a book – tied to a stick.
† Well, me apparently. I have not revisited this little nugget in fear it will turn out like that terrible day I re-watched a certain beloved childhood television show and felt my heart break at the sheer terribleness. FYI, He-Man and Danger Mouse still kick arse.
‡ Thoughts like ‘ooh, was that word in popular use at the time?’ or ‘ooh, is that how a Victorian hospital would have run?’. Ah, well. I’ll just have to read the book again and take notes and put Google to good use… because we all know Google is the “suppository” (yes, I went there) of all wisdom.
(Editor’s note: after rereading, there really were not many of these and were mostly medical terms that, when queried, were totally legit for the time period–that science degree has a lot to answer for when it comes to my pickiness.)
§ Disclaimer: Paul Kelly said no such thing. My lies continue. Dear audience, I can only apologise.