Holmes is Where the Heart Is

Holmes old and new.

After hearing that I had enjoyed watching Benedict Cumberbatch in The Year of the Dog my brother-in-law recommended that I watch Mr. Cumberbatch in the Sherlock TV series. I haven’t checked off that box yet, but the mention did set off memories of Sherlock Holmes, and of one heavyweight book that I used to own.

The book was almost as thick (over 1100 pages) as the title was long —The Complete Sherlock Holmes: All Four Novels/All Fifty-Six Adventures. It was a Bar Mitzvah gift from a good friend who was also a lover of mysteries and the written word. Much of my 13th year was spent devouring every word of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 60 pieces of the Holmesian mythos. And unlike Elizabeth, the current Holmes in the news who claimed to solve blood chemistries from a tiny drop of blood, Sherlock really did make much out of little, solving crimes from the smallest piece of evidence.

A Study in Scarlet, The Red-Headed League, The Hound of the Baskervilles. Famous stories, and names I remember so well. Yet I couldn’t tell you the plot or the denouement of any of them. In fact, the part of the volume I remember the best is the forward — a few pages that were written by an American Holmes aficionado, Christopher Morley.

While I read each story once, I must have read that forward fifty times. It is odd, but my mental picture of Holmes was penned more by Mr. Morley than by Sir Conan Doyle. And just to be sure my memories were accurate I tracked down the four-page forward online. As I read it this morning I was quite impressed with my own recall. There were paragraphs that I could recite almost word for word. I wish I could say the same for my Torah portion from that long ago Bar Mitzvah!

As for my friend who gave me the book, we are still in touch, although he lives across the country. A movie critic and college lecturer, he still acts as the post hoc unpaid editor for this blog, taking up the slack when Grammarly fails me. One day I will have to ask him which one of the dozens of actors who have portrayed Sherlock Holmes have been the best. And thank him for that gift from so long ago.

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