C. Alan Bradley & |
William A.S. Sargeant,
Ms. Holmes of Baker Street:
The Truth about Sherlock
(University of Alberta Press, 2004)
Ask anyone to describe Sherlock Holmes and they will undoubtedly describe a tall, slender man striding down some foggy London street wearing a great coat and a deerstalker hat. Or perhaps they will imagine him sitting in a leather wing chair, his legs crossed, smoking a curved and bulbous pipe while he discusses a case with his faithful companion Dr. Watson.
When I received Ms. Holmes of Baker Street, I imagined the book to be a novel about a mythical female Sherlock Holmes, something along the lines of the 1985 movie Young Sherlock Holmes, which showed Holmes and Watson meeting and solving their first case as teenagers. I was very much surprised to find, instead, that it was a scholarly work setting out to prove that Sherlock Holmes was a woman in disguise.
The authors present their argument, noting that "there is something strange about Sherlock Holmes," and defining that strangeness. They theorize about Holmes's early life and brief attendance at university, a break with her parents, pregnancies, children and even a later affair with Watson. They then examine each of the four novels and 56 short stories that make up the canon of Holmes' adventures, with a quick look in later chapters at the work of other commentators. Appendices include the dating of each adventure and a look at biorhythms and Holmes' birthday.
Ms. Holmes of Baker Street is a surprisingly fascinating book, even for a non-Sherlockian such as myself, whose only exposure to Sherlock Holmes had been one required short story in high school followed by Jeremy Brett's marvelous portrayal in the PBS series Mystery! It is really not necessary to have read any of the Holmes stories to be able to follow the argument or the examination of the canon, though whether the authors prove their case or not must be left up to the individual reader to decide.