So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution. Nicholas Meyer

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution is a Sherlock Holmes novel, but not by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Nicholas Meyer, the author claims to be the editor of these reminiscences of Dr. John H. Watson. In his Foreward he tells how the original manuscript was found in an attic in 1970. Then in an introductory chapter Dr. Watson relates why, in his 87th year (1939), he undertook the task of writing once more of the exploits of Sherlock Holmes. He claims he was sworn to secrecy until one of the main characters of the story passed away. Thus begins a post-Doyle Holmes tale which tries to give the fictional characters of Holmes and Watson a greater claim to reality by entangling them with actual real people of their time.

The story begins with Holmes seeking out Watson, convinced that his arch-enemy Professor Moriarty is hot on his trail and out to kill him with air guns. Dr. Watson finds that Holmes cocaine habit has become worse and, instead of being in danger of attack, he is delusional from his addiction. Seeking help from Sherlock's brother Mycroft, they devise a plan to lure Holmes to Vienna and into the care of Dr. Sigmund Freud. Freud successfully uses hypnosis to break the addiction, but it takes the strange case of a catatonic woman who escaped abduction and captivity only to attempt suicide to revive Holmes's spirit.

Written with a sense of humor that will upset traditionalists, this story is a rousing, if not accurate, portrayal of Holmes that will entertain readers of post-Doyle Holmesiana. The Freud-Holmes relationship is well-portrayed as is the character of Dr. Watson. Serious Holmes scholars may find the author's portrayals of Mycroft Holmes and Professor Moriarty shocking, but I don't think this book was written with them in mind.

Later made into a movie that was nominated for two Academy Awards, this novel is an enjoyable read, but the visual effects of the movie really brought it to life. While I liked the book, I enjoyed the movie more.


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