Sherlock Holmes has often been in my thoughts this past twelve months, for a host of reasons. The publication of The New Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes is among them, naturally, but in addition to enjoying the Sherlock exhibition at the Museum of London (still running, by the way), I've read some good books about the great consulting detective.
One of them is The Real World of Sherlock Holmes by B.J. Rahn, recently published by Amberley. I've known B.J. for a long time - she's an American Anglophile, who usually spends part of the year in London, and she's extremely knowledgeable about the genre. If you didn't know she was an eminent academic, you'd guess from the amount of space devoted here to notes and a bibliography, and there is a suitable scholastic care about her study of the context in which Sherlock "existed".
She takes a number of different themes (including forensics, and the policing context of the stories) and for me the most fascinating part of the book concerns her analysis of the way Conan Doyle used, but adjusted, the storytelling model adopted by Poe in his ground-breaking stories about the first of the "great detectives", Dupin. There's much of interest, too, about the way in which Conan Doyle's deep interest in true crime informed stories such as "The Bruce-Partington Plans".
I'm delighted that Amberley have published B.J.'s book, and I suspect that even lifelong Sherlock fans will find a few things here that they didn't know previously. Amberley have also published Conan Doyle's War, which is an edited version of what Conan Doyle had to say about the British campaign in France and Flanders a century ago. Given that this year has seen the centenary of the outbreak of the so-called Great War, this is a timely publication, and it illustrates Conan Doyle's versatility as a writer. But nobody could doubt that his finest work concerned Sherlock (except, of course, Conan Doyle himself - but what do authors know?)