November 23, 2008

The Italian Secretary by Caleb Carr

I'll come straight to the point - The Italian Secretary by Caleb Carr is a very nice piece of Sherlock Holmes fanfic, but really not worth the time it took to read it. I am not in any way disrespecting fanfic as I've read some that is really quite good, but I expect more from the celebrated author of The Alienist - a book that is both very well written and, quite frankly, disturbing.

The Italian Secretary features a sadly anemic Watson's pitifully anemic account of how a dreadfully anemic Holmes solves the horribly anemic "case" of the haunting of Holyroodhouse. It was preposterous from the moment Holmes and Watson are called to Scotland by Mycroft, who is apparently on very intimate terms with Queen Victoria. Like is said, preposterous, not to mention sadly underdeveloped. Instead of building the case throughout the narrative, Carr simply insists at every possible juncture that everything that happens is either breathtakingly thrilling, important or dangerous. It is not, though clearly the reader is meant to think otherwise.

Carr is obviously a genuine fan of Arthur Conan Doyle's (I can't fault his enthusiasm - I'm a huge fan myself), and he's clearly read the canon. Unfortunately, this obvious knowledge and appreciation did not translate into a compelling "further adventure," or even a convincing portrayal of the master detective (for that go straight to said canon, or the Granada TV series with Jeremy Brett). Rather, The Italian Secretary simply made me feel cranky and dissatisfied - a feeling that only went away after I'd re-read "The Blue Carbuncle" and "The Resident Patient." So that's what I would suggest - stick to the real Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (or any of the other canonical collections or novels) wherein the cases and the hero are anything but anemic.


Annamaria said...

:: giggle :: Funny, my current bedtime reading is the Complete Sherlock Holmes that I bought on Baker Street, in the Sherlock Holmes Museum. An amazing place, I'd very much love to go back again, this time with more money than a grad student from East-Central Europe had...

Madeleine said...

Oh wow, I would love to go Baker Street to see that Museum.... It's funny, I always get a craving for certain books towards the end of the year - usually they're comfort books that are like old friends. Holmes is definitely one of them :)