Thursday, October 23, 2014

Book Review: "The Adventure of the Abbey Grange" (Doyle, 1897)

“Come, Watson, come!” he cried. “The game is afoot. Not a word! Into your clothes and come!”

--Sherlock Holmes, “The Adventure of the Abbey Grange

Leigh: *Rummages through boxes. Clears away dust. Comedic coughing ensues.*

There it is! 

Hey, did you know we have a blog? I know, I was as surprised as you are! But here it is! We do! We have a blog! And I've even been told it's about Sherlock Holmes so...We should probably talk about that. Right. Yeah.

The latest adventure of the World's Greatest Detective that we're looking at is the Adventure of Abbey Grange. It starts off with Holmes saying one of his most famous lines, telling Watson he sucks, and leaving London for Downton Abbey. 

Holmes tells Watson, not for the first time, that he over sensationalizes the stories and adds too many romantic details and doesn't stick to the facts of the mystery at hand. So Watson, after having his feelings obviously hurt, says, "FINE! YOU write your own damn stories then!" And Holmes responds, "FINE! I WILL." And that is the end of that. I don't know if it's me just wanting more interpersonal drama between the detective and his biographer, but I wish this had been brought up more or even again. Watson is an important part of the duo but Holmes often times just pushes him to the side and only talks to him when he's retelling what he did when trying to figure out a mystery. 

When the duo finally arrive at Downton Abbey, the mystery isn't actually a mystery. The lady of the house's husband is killed and she says that it was a group of well known robbers who have been burgling houses all across the country. She provides numerous details that all point to the fact that this is true and that she didn't make it up at all. 

"You're right. The murderer is definitely not someone in the house."

And then Holmes takes one look around the dining room, sidestepping her dead husband and goes, "Nope, she's lying." How he does this though is nice. Most adaptations have the well known detective Lestrade walking around, telling Holmes how awful he is and how he's going to take all of the credit. Rarely mentioned is Inspector Stanley Hopkins who is in a handful of adventures as well. Holmes actually likes Hopkins and instead of shoving him to the side and making him figure everything out on his own, Holmes gives him a couple of vague but very pointed hints that should help him figure out the mystery. He's forcing Hopkins to think critically about the clues at hand, much like those professors who want you to figure out the answer without just spoon feeding us the answer to the stupid question that was asked. 

The mystery is quickly solved by Holmes being Holmes. The conclusion is another one of those moments when Holmes takes the law into his own hands. Throughout the mystery, we are told how awful Sir Eustace is, I mean, he set a dog on fire. A live dog, on fire. That's reason enough for him to have his head bashed in with a fire poker. Or at least also set on fire. But because of his general awfulness, Holmes lets his killer go free, along with the help of Watson who says he's not guilty in a very cute scene. It's a weird moment though where both Watson and Holmes, knowing who the killer is, just lets him walk out the door because twue wuv or something. The ending didn't sit well with me.

What is your opinion, Lugar?


So I also had plenty of thoughts on the ending. They had this fantastic setup at the beginning where Watson is trying to argue the value of his stories and Sherlock being a dick. Then at the end, there’s this potential for an awesome bookend. Like you said, Sherlock is bragging about how he walks in the line in administrating justice and assigns himself as judge. This makes Watson the jury. It’s his decision that will decide this man’s fate. Like all twelve of those angry men, this is a moment of decision, possibly indecision and then a life changing moment. What is the internal conflict of the good doctor? What are those emotions that are tormenting his soul? Let’s read an excerpt:

“…Do you find the prisoner guilty or not guilty?”
“Not guilty, my lord,” said I.
“Voux populi, vox Dei. You are acquitted, Captain Crocker.”

That’s it. That bugged me more than Holmes oddly not judging the killer. Have the roles reversed? As Watson become more analytical in his approach in these later books and Holmes is the warm chum? Like you said, Holmes has an admirable mentor like quality with Hopkins. He leaves it up to Watson to make the big decisions. He is even romantic in his gesture to have Crocker and the woman meet up a year later like it was a gosh darn affair to remember. 

Is there something here or am I just incorrectly counting glasses?

Leigh: You ever start writing a story and throw in a detail and think, "Oh! I should revisit that." and then never do? I feel like this is what happened with Watson and Holmes in the beginning of this story. It was the perfect little set up for some nice drama and plot points and then it didn't go anywhere. Maybe Doyle forgot about it? Maybe this was a story that was late to the printers or something. What ever the reason, it should be revisited. 

At the end, I don't feel that Watson was really thinking through the whole situation. We get his internal dialogue more often than not and this time it was just him retelling the story, not what his opinions really were or what the hell Holmes was doing. He just goes along with it, which, if he is becoming more analytical and less emotional, he should've at least paused and gone, "Hold up. Wait a minute. Let me put the beat back in it." Instead he blindly follows. I know he trusts Holmes' opinion but he should've at least paused. 

Maybe Doyle was drunk when writing this story. I don't think he drank, at least not in excess but the character differences are more drastic than I feel should be from previous adventures.

"I was supposed to write about something.....Shit, what was it?"

Maybe we're both miscounting wine glasses here...?


This is a format change that I think snuck up on me. Perhaps our hiatus was a good idea. (We planned everything.) Does it seem to you that Watson has less comments throughout all of the story? For I’ve noticed that the client’s monologues tend to be a lot longer in the Return of Sherlock Holmes. In my paperback edition, I’m seeing monologues go on for three pages and there are two doozies in this story. Luckily I thought they were compelling enough but while I was reading them I took notice of how long it was where people are just walking around the room describing every minute nuance that is popping into their head. This story used that in a curious way of a litmus test—do you believe this story? Since we’re about four pages in when the first one appears, it’s fair to have a little bit of doubt.

I’m not sure if it’s because it’s been a few months since I read a story but I rather liked this one. I was disappointed by Doyle’s approach to Watson but aside from that I thought there was a clear picture of what happened and Holmes was fun to be around. I’m very excited for the final story in this volume since it has already been aluded to before….

Since this is the story with the famous line, which you can read at the beginning of the blog, we decided to review a Sherlock Holmes video game. A popular one that popped up this year was one for iOS and Android called The Network that ties into the BBC game. Right now it’s free and we’re going to check it out next week. Thankfully there’s nothing horrible going on about women reviewing video games so we’ll be fine! Join us, won’t you?

Leigh: At last, we have a blog again!

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