Saturday, February 9, 2013

Book Review: "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches" (1892)

“Crime is common. Logic is rare. Therefore it is upon the logic rather than upon the crime that you should dwell.”
-- Sherlock Holmes, “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches”

Leigh: I love the Victorian Era. There is something that has been romanticized about it that just makes me want to be a proper lady looking for her fainting couch. Of course I know that if I had been born in that era, I would more likely be working in some terrible factory for shillings a week and that's usually when I stop longing for the days of yesteryear. 

Copper Beeches is one of my favorites because it seems more like a mystery to me. It has some of that romanticism that I was talking about but at the root of the story is a true mystery to me. Violet is offered a too-good-to-be-true job and asks Holmes for advice since she doesn't have any close friends or relatives to go to and Dear Abby hadn't been invented yet. You know what else hadn't been invented? Google. When ever I get an offer that seems too good to be true, I Google the person who offered it, the institution they represent, the history of the institution, everything. I make sure everything is good as gold before I agree to it. Violet wasn't so lucky so she got stuck with a job in a house full of mean people. Mean, rude, evil people. I might be over reacting but locking your daughter in a room so she can't see her boyfriend? Rude.

Sure Violet might not have been able to find this out but she might've been able to see that Jephro's daughter hadn't tweeted in a few weeks and that she suddenly disappeared. If her last tweet said this: 

@AliceRucastle: Can't wait to see my boo tonight! He's the love of my life and I don't care what Daddy thinks!

And then she doesn't update ever again? Something might be wrong. Of course this is all what ifs since the internet hadn't been invented yet. 

What do you think, Austin? Would you have taken the job? And what do you think about Holmes acting as Dear Abby? 

Austin: What I love about Doyle stories is that people approach a private eye for very odd reasons. Sam Spade is called in to track someone down, Phillip Marlowe hunts down murderers. Sherlock Holmes is called in to wonder if this job is any good.

This one is a fun one because if it was made today there would be many jumps to wrong conclusions. "He wants me to wear this blue dress while I work..." "It's a sex thing. Your call." "He wants me to cut my hair." "He probably just saw Les Mis. It's a sex thing. Your call."

Maybe he's just into that kinda thing...

I also thought this was going to go down the path of Rebecca or Vertigo which is asking the woman to be a creepy recreation of a lost love.

But just like Speckled Band this wouldn't be much of a mystery if the bad guy wasn't super creative with his plan. He could have just yelled at the boyfriend OR he could spend a lot of money and store a lot of hair to make this plan work. Should have added a clause not to confer with Sherlock Holmes in his contracts but that may have raised even more red flags.

Now the question is, does this make for a good mystery? Doyle stories rely on the world being crazy and Sherlock pointing out the logic in the madness. Is that too contrived for an acceptable mystery or does this work as its own fun little niche?

Leigh: Because the story takes place in a world and time where learning private/intimate details was really hard to do, I think this works as a mystery. Remember we read a story about a man who made his living as a beggar and his wife had no clue. It was almost even acceptable to keep your daughter locked up if she were threatening to run off with a sailor. I almost thought it was a sex thing until I had to constantly remind myself that it was published during the Victorian Era where sex didn't exist. (Truthfact: Sex wasn't invented until 1958 by Elvis.)

Because the smaller parts of the puzzle were plausible, I think this works as a mystery. And it's another where the bad guy is punished outside the law. He was mauled by a vicious dog and there was no mention of getting the police for locking his daughter in a room for who knows how long so his only punishment was that he was attacked by a dog that he abused. Not much of a punishment in my book. The idea though sorta plays off of the classic "damsel in distress" but this time the knight in shining armor isn't our hero but the damsel's hero who we never really meet.

And since I've read this one a few times, I am gonna mention something that interests me. Sherlock Holmes, to this point, has been very much a bachelor. He hasn't found interest in ladies like Dr. Watson who found himself his first wife in The Sign of Four. Holmes is very much interested in the game that's afoot. He's interested in the mystery and solving problems and he solving the female sex doesn't seem to interest him. Watson mentions though that Holmes had a twinkle in his eye about Miss Violet but that interest was immediately gone once the mystery was solved. Do you think that Holmes is just not interested in romance or do you think he is a *ahem* confirmed bachelor?

Austin: This was another fun story into what does Holmes focus on. I think his age has a lot to do with his drive towards the mystery. He has this energy, fueled a bit by cocaine, to always be solving these puzzles. That's where we find him comfortable and that's where we find him pushing towards at all times.

Watson doesn't have that passion and his ambitions connect to the pleasures of life. He finds art in these stories and empathy in those he meets. His wife, who is occasionally mentioned, is someone else who brightens his life.

The non-Doyle stories when I have seen Sherlock the most romantic and humanistic are the ones when he is older and the drive is lessened. This is in The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King and The Final Solution by Michael Chabon (which will both be inevitably be reviewed on the blog).

I really enjoyed the opening to this story because it's yet another odd conversation between Holmes and Watson before the client arrives. These are always my favorite parts of the stories because it's without the dramatic drive of the plot and it's just them being weird friends. It's almost like the openings to The Mighty Boosh in Season One.

In this one Holmes offends Watson for his enhanced tellings of his stories for the sake of his publications. He's not very upset but states rather coldly that they could have been served better as lectures than adventures. Perhaps the oddest thing from within this fiction is that Watson printed this conversation--even though he did provide a good argument.

Anywho, this concludes the first collection--The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes! I'm excited because now we're venturing to stories I never read as a kid. Next week we shall sum up our thoughts on Adventures in a fun way in our usual Tuesday/Wednesday slot. Then on Friday we'll review a Basil Rathbone movie since we've had so many weeks of weird adaptations.

But if you're playing along--And you should!--we'll be reviewing our first novel the week after next. We'll talk more about it soon but pick up a copy of The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz and have it done by February 19th.

Leigh: Yay!

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