Books 22 Aug 2007 02:00 pm

Lucky seven percent

I recently read The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, which claims to be an unpublished adventure of Sherlock Holmes written by his companion, John H. Watson, M.D., and edited by Nicholas Meyer.

Fans of Holmes know that it is a long-standing conceit to claim the detective was a flesh-and-blood person and that his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was simply the editor of the Watson-related mysteries. Meyer does not relinquish that belief here until his acknowledgements at the end, when he gives Doyle credit for creating one of the most enduring fictional heroes of all time.

The story itself is a near pitch-perfect copy of Doyle’s literary style, something that is not easy to pull off, if the profusion of poorly written Holmes pastiches is any indication.

The plot itself is simple: Watson secures Sigmund Freud to wean Holmes off a nasty cocaine habit (the seven-per-cent solution of the title). Meyer, who also┬áco-wrote and directed the best of the Star Trek films, The Wrath of Khan, keeps the story moving briskly and manages to work in many familiar faces and objects, including Toby, the bloodhound with the ultra-sensitive nose, the detective’s Stradivarius, and Watson’s often-referenced war injury.

It’s all good fun and makes me want to revisit Holmes in the original Doyle stories. Isn’t that what a good pastiche should do?

One Response to “Lucky seven percent”

  1. on 25 Aug 2007 at 1.Ron said …

    There are 2 more Meyers pastiches, “The West End Horror” and “The Canary Trainer”, but neither was as good as “The Seven Percent Solution”. This summer I read a couple of novellas by an English writer named Donald Thomas in his recent book, “The Execution of Sherlock Holmes”. The title story was excellent, and I felt an even better imitation of the original Holmesian voice. It was also interesting in the fact that Doyle’s original stories are either very short adventures (56 in all) or very long (4 novels) but none are of the novella length, and Thomas’ book is a collection of 5 Holmes novellas. Thomas incorporates a better feel for the style perhaps because he is English, and also because he is a historian with many books on crime and biographies of Victorian and Edwardian figures to his name.

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