Thursday, January 24, 2013

Book Review: "The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet" (Doyle, 1892)

“It is an old maxim of mine that when you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

--Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet

Aren't you glad that you now know that this picture exists?
 Leigh: This story, like many of the others, has changed my opinion of it on a second reading. When I first read it, I loved it. I thought it was exciting and I had no idea what the solution was and I was truly baffled. After finishing the story today though, I found the mystery to be a little lacking. Maybe because I remembered a good portion of it or maybe because we've already dealt with a couple of stories that could be easily solved by people just speaking the truth. It would take a lot for me to not rat out someone if I was facing jail time for something I didn't do, but here we have a man who is so noble that he is willing to stay quiet about his cousin's tryst with a rapscallion because he knew it would break his father's heart. Maybe I'm just not that great of a person, but I don't see this happening very often today, especially for a crime as minor as breaking a crown of some member of royalty. It's probably not a misdemeanor but it isn't murder. When does the crime outweigh the truth?

I personally think that the situation that started this whole series of events is more interesting. Who was it that requested a loan in the first place? Why did they need £50,000 anyway? And if they needed it so badly, why didn't they wait until they received that big paycheck they were talking about? Who cares about the dumb, broken coronet, I want to know what member of royalty needed the money! What situation could occur for them to need the money? Gambling debts? Blackmail? Baby momma? I'm more interested in this situation than the boy who is so in love that he won't tell his father the truth. Yes, it's romantic but it's also boring a predictable.

 What do you think, Austin? Am I making good points or are my crabby pants showing?

Austin: I think you have some strong points although I don't think we necessarily need to know about the loan and the backstory. These stories always give way too much set-up for these stories which I assume is Doyle trying to muddy the waters of the mystery. Like dumping two boxes of two different puzzles on a table so the audience and the detective has to figure out what matches with this particular crime.

I liked this story because it had one of the best set-ups. Watson looks out the window and recognizes a madman heading their way. Then we have a complicated family situation and what seems like a no-brainer situation considering there was a witness.

I was a bit let down by the resolution because it is so complicated with who is where and who knows what. It will probably make sense if I saw it visually but after a point I just imagined most of the farcical hijinks from the movie Animal Crackers. I'm not entirely sure how Sherlock jumped to some of those conclusions and yet I was still impressed by some of it.

I'm fine with the family drama and their pride. A bit because of how this all comes together. This was all a private family affair and then it is exposed by a stranger. Families have their own norms and standards and when a private detective comes into their home, that's when their behaviors look strange. Especially when the actions are observed by a detective who refuses to be emotionally involved; this is the story with the famous quote that will undoubtedly be at the beginning of the post.

Should it be this way though? Would it be more entertaining if Sherlock was more bemused by the family's actions?

Leigh: I really like your bit about puzzle pieces. It's a perfect analogy.

While reading this one again, I kept thinking how this could be an episode of Downton Abbey. Lord Grantham is put in charge of a fancy coronet and Tom is the one who is found holding it when it was Thomas who was the one who did it in the first place, or something like that. Sure the family's actions seem a bit odd but I think it's more of a time period thing. We've already seen that it was completely normal for a wife not know what her husband did for a living. I think that this family dynamic is a bit more normal. If Sherlock focused more on who was in love with whom, then I think we'd lose some of the "scientific" aspects that Holmes lectures about so often.

A real "Whodunnit?"

I will agree that the set up seemed overly complicated for the end result. My argument was that the broke noble was more interesting to me than the family trouble. Dysfunctional families aren't new and there's a point when it just gets boring. Have I been watching too much Roseanne/Malcom in the Middle/Raising Hope/Any sitcom ever and become jaded by it or am I over thinking this?

Austin: With dysfunctional families or anything else we find tiring, we always have to look at the copyright and remember this is pre-1900.  Then again all novels from pre-1900 is about moody dysfunctional families and/or men trying to escape sirens who turn sailors into pigs. 

Every trope can be interesting if it has a different spin on it. Doesn't need to be a big plot gimmick, but if you have rich characters the most standard of plots can be riveting. Since Doyle stories aren't always about the richest of characterization, his spin will always be the presence of a genius detective. For now, that still works for me as he shakes up London society. 

That said I would definitely watch the Downton version of this if only to watch the internet explode from a Downton/Sherlock cross-over.

This week we're going to have a fun movie review. We're covering a silent short double feature because we are just in it for the site hits. We're going to cover the super super short Sherlock Holmes Baffled which is the first film adaptation of the detective. It's 30 seconds long and you can watch it HERE

Also we're going to cover one of my favorite silent films, the Buster Keaton masterpiece Sherlock Jr. which you can watch HERE. Get excited for those up on Friday or Saturday.

And here is Leigh Montano with the last word.

Leigh: What’saBeryl?