TV Review: Elementary, Season One

I was recently lamenting Hollywood’s apparent need to force all platonic, opposite-gender characters into romantic relationships, and received a recommendation (thanks, Beedrill!) to check out Elementary as a contrast.  Happily, my library had Season One on DVD, and I had an opening in my “mystery show” viewing slot.

Elementary is a Sherlock Holmes-reimagining, set in modern-day New York (though Holmes is still British), following the adventure of recovering-addict and consulting detective Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) and his sober companion/eventual friend Joan Watson (Lucy Liu).  Consulting with the NYPD, it follows the usual mystery show format of a murder-a-week, with a later in the season arc involving archenemy Moriarty.

I was reluctant to watch this show back when it first appeared because the gender flip of Watson was weirding me out.  I think gender flips in general are interesting, but I had assumed Hollywood would do what Hollywood does and wind up with an eventual Holmes/Watson romance which just feels deeply, deeply wrong on some level, no matter who is what gender or orientation.  So it was good to hear that wasn’t the direction the show went, and I can verify that at least in Season One there isn’t even a hint of romantic interest between the show’s principal characters—which I find all to the good, because their friendship is more intriguing.

Continue reading “TV Review: Elementary, Season One”

Book Review: Sherlock Holmes – The Sign of Four

I always like to get some Sherlock Holmes in during the R. I. P. Challenge–by which I mean Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, though I’ve enjoyed some adaptations too.  This year I read The Sign of Four, which I’ve been meaning to read ever since I went on the Sherlock Holmes walking tour in London (in 2012, so it’s been a while).  The guide talked about the plot, and I realized I didn’t remember a story about a one-legged man and a chest of jewels.  I bought a Complete Holmes years ago, and have now completely lost track of which parts of it I’ve read…

Now that I’ve read The Sign of Four, I’m pretty sure I hadn’t read it before.  I might have forgotten the one-legged man, but I would have remembered the novel that introduced Watson’s wife!  She comes to 221B Baker Street because of a mysterious letter relating to her father’s disappearance.  The disappearance is quickly solved, but in the process, Holmes and Watson are set on the trail of a murder, a vanished treasure, and a one-legged man. Continue reading “Book Review: Sherlock Holmes – The Sign of Four”

Sherlock: The Empty Hearse

sherlock1I hear that there was something important going on with football this past weekend…  Personally, I found it far more exciting that the BBC’s Sherlock was finally back!  It already aired in England, but it was back at last in America.  Sherlock is on its third series (or season), so there will be spoilers for the previous two.  I’ll try to avoid spoilers for this episode.

The usual method for each 90-minute episode of Sherlock is to solve one major case.  There is a case here, one involving a terrorist attack, but that takes a backseat to Sherlock’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) return from the dead, and his reunion with all the other characters, particularly John Watson (Martin Freeman).  And then, of course, there is THE question–how he managed to fake his death to begin with.

Series Two ended with that absolutely killer cliffhanger, on how Sherlock faked dying by jumping off a building, and we’ve been waiting two years for an answer.  In many ways, I think the show writers set themselves up for an impossible task, to somehow deliver an episode that can live up to that kind of anticipation.  And yet, I feel like they succeeded, mostly by deft uses of humor and occasional sleight of hand.

The answer to THE question?  Well, I’m certainly not going to tell you that!  But I will tell you that the show provides three possible explanations, and winds up by being a bit ambiguous about whether we have the true answer or not (and makes a joke about the listener being disappointed).  I think it would be enormously fun if they keep providing alternate explanations over the rest of the season!  If they don’t, I still feel satisfied.  I have an answer, and if Sherlock wants to be enigmatic about the answer, I can live with that.

Sherlock’s reunion with John is an absolute work of genius.  It’s hilariously funny, while somehow also having some real character depth to it as well.  And there’s a less funny, more sentimental moment later on too.  They could have gone completely towards the dramatic for the reunion, but I think it could so easily have gone cloying or flat.  Comedy was the right choice, and those scenes reminded me just how brilliant this show really is.  I’ve been so focused on THE question of the cliffhanger that I almost forgot to miss the show for itself, rather than for the answer to the mystery.

For Doyle fans, there are some nice moments harkening back to the original stories.  Mrs. Hudson first knows Sherlock is back when she sees his silhouette through a window, which directly reflects how Watson knew Holmes was alive in the short story.  There’s also a minor case Sherlock solves in this episode that reflects the plotline of one of the short stories.  And then the title, of course–“The Empty Hearse” is such a fun play on “The Empty House,” Holmes’ return short story.

This episode is definitely not a starting place for the series on a whole, but if you saw the previous two series, this is a wonderful return.

And I swear, Sherlock really is the good-Khan (or Khan is the evil-Sherlock, however you want to look at that!)

Sherlock Coat 1 Benedict-Cumberbatch-in-Star-Trek-Into-Darkness-2013-Movie-Character-Banner

Blog Hop: Horror Novels

book blogger hopThis week’s Book Blogger Hop question: Halloween Edition: What is your favorite horror novel and why?

I am not generally one for actual Horror novels…I’m not sure I’ve ever read one!  I know other people like them, but I don’t feel any need at all to fill my head with ghastly ideas.

However–I do like a good shadowy Gothic novel now and then, which is the closest I come to Horror.  My favorite is The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, an adventure of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson out on the misty moor.

Holmes and Watson generally seem so indelibly placed in 221B Baker Street and the streets of London.  In a way, I think what I like in this book is the changed atmosphere.  I’m never tired by their usual setting, but the juxtaposition of urban Holmes and Watson in the Gothic landscape is great fun.  And maybe I like venturing into the creepy and mysterious with familiar friends. 🙂

This book also features what may be my very favorite Holmes-story moment, when Watson goes out to confront the mysterious man on the moor, and he’s waiting for him to come, and the tension builds and builds, and then–but that would be telling!

Do you read Horror, or any related genres?  What’s your favorite spooky or horrifying novel?

Into the Dark of the Night…

RIP8main400My favorite source for reading experiences is kicking off another seasonal challenge: Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting Readers Imbibing Peril (RIP) celebrating autumn with books on the darker side.  This laid-back reading challenge focuses on mysteries, gothic and horror.  Even squeamish-me is looking forward to the fun!

I must admit, this doesn’t align with my favorite genres with quite the serendipitous perfection of the Sci Fi Experience or the Once Upon a Time Challenge, but I do like a good mystery now and then, and I have a few shadowy novels in mind. Continue reading “Into the Dark of the Night…”

Saturday Snapshot: 221B Baker Street

One of my many literary pilgrimages while I was in London and Paris included a trip to a very famous address–221B Baker Street, the home of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.  I had heard it was a tourist trap and was pleasantly surprised that it was better than reported.  I wrote more about it as part of a book review earlier this week, so today–pictures!

The outside of the building…
The parlor–and by far the best room. Sorry it’s a bit dark!


Holmes’ desk, and Stradivarius violin
Irene Adler?
Sitting by the fire…

It all rather makes me want to read another Holmes book.

Check out At Home with Books for more Saturday Snapshots!

In the Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes

I brought a great stack of British books with me when I went to London, many of which I hope to share with you.  I thought I’d start off with Sherlock Holmes, which kills several birds with one stone.  It’s a good book for the R.I.P. Challenge, and also lets me share a little about my trip!

First, the book review.  I’ve read a lot of Sherlock Holmes stories and novels in the past, and to be honest, when I look at titles I’m not always sure which ones I’ve read!  But I was almost sure The Valley of Fear was a new-to-me book (and it was), so I brought that one with me to London.  It turned out to be an interesting mix of a novel.

It opens, as most Holmes stories do, with Holmes and Watson invited to look into a strange case.  A man is found dead in his home out in the country–complicating the situation, his home is an old fortress, complete with moat.  The drawbridge was up, so how did the murderer get in, and where did he go?  There are a few strange details about the crime scene and the other people in the house.  The murdered man seems to have had something dark in his past, but the only clue is a vague reference to “the Valley of Fear.”

So it’s essentially standard Holmes fare, and a good mystery with a clever resolution.  Holmes is in fine form, it’s always nice to visit with him and Watson, and all in all it’s a good Holmes story.  The biggest point of interest for me is that Moriarty is referenced here.  I had always previously thought that he was only in the single short story (and, of course, many adaptations).  There’s more about him here, which explains a lot.

The funny thing about this book is that it’s in two parts.  Part One I described above–Part Two is a flashback into one character’s past in the Valley of Fear.  I feel like I can see here Doyle’s desire to get away from Holmes, because he’s essentially given us a non-Holmes novella in the middle of a Holmes novel.  It’s interesting enough, but not as good as the section with Holmes.

It suffers also from a rather peculiar problem which is hard to discuss without spoilers.  Doing my best…there’s a twist near the end which changes almost everything that came before it.  The problem is, in order to give the impression which leads to the shocking twist, for most of the book we’re dealing with very unlikable characters.  It might have been better as a short story, when we wouldn’t have to spend quite as much time with unpleasant people.

Even so, if you’re a Holmes fan, this is definitely worth reading for the mystery in the first half, and the insight into Moriarty.  And it was a great choice for my trip, because I was in a Holmes mood.  You see, one of the places I visited was 221B Baker Street.

I had heard it was a tourist trap, but it was better than reported–at least, part of it.  As I think about it, the museum actually has a fair bit in common with The Valley of Fear.  It opens splendid and very Holmesian, and then diminishes as you go.

221B Baker Street, of course, is the home of Holmes and Watson.  It’s very vertical–you get to visit three small floors.  The first level has the parlor and Holmes’ bedroom, and this level is absolutely superb.  Every detail you could want is there, with Irene Adler’s photo on the mantel, Holmes’ tobacco in a slipper, and Watson’s medical bag on a chair.  In Holmes’ room there’s an open book on beekeeping, which he took up after he retired from detective work–it’s those little details that really impressed me.

The next floor is sort of Watson’s room and Mrs. Hudson’s room (although I never had the impression before that the landlady lived in the same apartment…)  This level is a mix of period things and Holmes memorabilia.  Both are interesting, but they do sit a little oddly together.

The third floor is fairly dreadful.  It’s all done up with mannequins meant to be characters from different stories, and for whatever reason they made choices towards the macabre and the grotesque.  It’s all rather creepy–and I was there at ten in the morning.  I shudder to think what it’s like in the dark.

But like The Valley of Fear, the museum is all worth it for the beginning.  The parlor makes you feel like you’ve stepped into the stories.

Stay tuned this Saturday for more pictures from 221B Baker Street.  I’m anticipating a Holmes-themed Saturday Snapshot!

Other reviews:
Lucy’s Bookshelf
The Literary Omnivore
The Flying Inn
Anyone else?