Review: This book is a collection of articles on Sherlockian matters by a true Sherlockian scholar. It includes a variety of subjects and formats and is liberally spiced with the unobtrusive dry humor that is typical of Professor Alvarez. The only
consistent theme in this book is that of scholarship. Professor Alvarez documents everything. Because of that attention to detail, readers may take him a bit seriously and think they are reading class presentations or detailed redactions of dusty volumes from the back of the Library stacks. Don’t make that mistake. These are intensely personal observations by a Sherlockian with a true love for the Canonical tales, the Great Detective, the Good Doctor and the man behind it all, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The “Essays” segment includes short studies in Sherlockiana. “Simplifying Complexity in Sherlock Holmes Stories” gives guidelines for new readers of the Canon, things to look for and keys to the “Sherlockian” viewpoint. “Sherlock Holmes and Educating” provides clues to Holmes’s world. It gives “facts” from the Canon about Holmes, his skills and interests and it asks readers to educate themselves using the Canonical tales as a guide to the world of Sherlock Holmes. “Dr. Watson vs. Sherlock Holmes’s Writing Style” looks at the several different modes in which the tales were written and applies standard literary analysis techniques to them, with modest results. “Sherlock Holmes Encounters Three Professors” examines the three professors who appear actively in the Canon. “Sherlock Holmes as College Professor” examines what the Canon tells us about Holmes and concludes that he had many of the characteristics needed by an effective educator.
In “A Call to Academia” Holmes is offered a Professorship at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, after his retirement from detective work. This article points out his qualifications and his general suitability for this position. “Sherlock Holmes as Detective and Scientist” examines how Holmes applies the Scientific Method in his investigations and the advances that have been made since his time. It is followed by several appendices that are cited in the various articles. “The Valley of Fear: Three Missing Words” examines, and explains the differences between the English and American Publications of VALL and does quite a good job of it too. “The Stock-Broker’s Clerk: Parallels and Parodies” examines and explains similar themes that occur in STOC and in other Canonical tales, specifically REDH, 3GAR and NORW. “Thumb-less in Eyford” examines some logic problems that appear in “The Engineer’s Thumb.” Professor Alvarez offers explanations and gives earlier views expressed in these matters by other Sherlockians.
“Sherlock Holmes Revealed in Art” examines the “artistic” side of Holmes. It concentrates on a painting by Eric Conklin done in the “trompe L’oeil” style. With no Art experience, I couldn’t understand what was said and the picture in the book is too dark to see details. “Sherlock Holmes, American Football and Schenectady” relates an incident during a lecture tour made by Holmes and Watson to various American locations. As American Baseball arose from the English game of Cricket, so American Football grew out of British Rugby. Watson’s confusion about football provides a counterpoint of light relief to Holmes’s earnest explanations.
The “in the Footsteps” segment tells of trips the Professor Alvarez took and passes along his thoughts on the places visited. These included The Reichenbach and the nearby Trummelbach Falls as well as Trinity College and its Library. His conclusions involving Doyle’s mind and the two falls are compelling. His reflections on Trinity and its Library reveal the true nature of a bibliophile
The final segment, “Magic Squares and a Quinquain,” includes a basic Magic Squares coding/decoding sheet and a puzzle to be solved as well as the elements of unique poem form.