Thursday, October 29, 2015

Review: ADVENTURE OF THE CREEPING MAN by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

the creeping man

To close out Sherlock Month, Dinara Tengri is here again with a review of one of the lesser-known Sherlock Holmes stories, Adventure of the Creeping Man. This sounds like it might be a perfect read for Halloween. Take it away, Dinara!

I've been a fan of Sherlock Holmes since I was about twelve years old. Back then, one of my favourite short stories was Adventure of the Creeping Man. It was so scary and disturbing, that I was haunted by the image of a grown man creeping on all fours with a mad look on his face. For my guest post on Book Bloggers International I wanted to do something special, so I've read Creeping Man for the first time in over a decade, to find out if it's as good as I remember it.

Adventure of the Creeping Man was published in 1923 and it's one of the lesser popular Sherlock Holmes stories. This is where Conan Doyle blurred the line between realism and science fiction, and introduced the element of paranormal to the Sherlock Holmes Universe. And I think a lot of people were confused by this.

The story follows a case of a renowned scientist who all of a sudden becomes irrational and volatile. His behaviour becomes ever more bizarre at night, when he starts creeping around the house and climbing up the walls, scaring the living daylight out of his family. Desperate, his family turns to the most famous consulting detective in the world.

The first thing that stands out about this story is that it's very short. Personally, I like brevity. But is Creeping Man too short? The case is solved so quickly and with so little effort that as a reader you don't get enough time to really sink into the story.

On the bright side, this story is as scary and unsettling as I remember it. Conan Doyle paints such vivid and detailed images of the creeping scientist, that you can really see yourself standing there, scared and very, very confused. But it's not just the images that are making you feel uncomfortable. It's the whole idea of having a member of your family, someone you think you know so well, suddenly turn into someone else.

Also, this story is very funny, particularly one scene, near the climax. Just thinking about it now makes me laugh.

This is not the best of the Sherlock Holmes stories. Despite all its flaws, though, I like it because the spooky bits and the humour more than make up for them. That's why I'm giving it 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

So, have you read Adventure of the Creeping Man? What did you think about it?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Featured Blogger: Dinara Tengri

Today please welcome Dinara, who blogs at Dinara Tengri.

What's the meaning behind the name of your book blog?

It's just my name. I wanted to keep it as simple as possible.

How long have you been blogging?

A couple of weeks. This is my second book blog. Last year I blogged for a few months.

Tell us a bit about your book blog. What makes it unique?

It's a blog where I get to write about books I read. It's very simple. And very personal, and I am very honest in my reviews.

What genres do you write about most, and why?

I love science fiction. I also enjoy fantasy and historical books (non-fiction, that is), and scentfic books (Stephen Hawking, Brian Greene etc)

Every blogger feels pressure at some point. What's something you feel pressured to do or not do on your blog? How do you deal with it?

Sometimes I feel like I should adopt a certain writing style. I read other blogs and I think they do it better than me, and that I should write like them. I know from experience that this sort of thing never works, so I try to write as simple and honest as possible.

What's one book you think everyone should read?

The book I've recently reviewed, Voices from Chernobyl, by Svetlana Alexievich.

Writing in books: Yes or hell to the no?

You mean like leaving notes? Hell to the no :)

What's your favorite place to read or blog?

In my office. And by "office" I mean "my room".

Is the evil empire? Discuss.

I want to say yes. But I have no personal experience with them. Yet. So I'll wait with that one.

Book shelfie time! Take a "shelfie" of your bookshelves and share it with us.


So these four shelves are fiction only.

One book you like that no one else seems to, or vice versa?

Most people are in love with Moby Dick. I hated it.

To DNF or not to DNF?

DNF. But only on occasion.

What's one book that intimidates you?

I don't think I've read a book that would have this effect on me.

If you could go to any literary destination, where would you go?

Ray Bradbury's Mars. It's a magical place.

How about non-book related hobbies? What do you do when you don't feel like reading?

I recently picked up knitting. I also dance, and put together furniture from IKEA.

What's your favorite book to movie adaptation?

Favorite: The Martian
Least favorite: The Shining

What are 3 favorite posts or reviews you've read by other book bloggers?

What is your reading personality? (via quiz at

I'm a quiet reader. But I have an opinion on everything I read.

Thank you for joining us today, Dinara! Remember to check out Dinara's blog and leave a comment or question.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Two Awesome Screen Sherlocks

There have been a lot of Sherlocks on our movie and TV screens. In fact, some think Holmes is the most prolific character in the history of film.

Today, Pamela from A Writer's Tales is here to compare two recent Sherlocks: Benedict Cumberbatch and Robert Downey, Jr. Who's the best? The debate rages!

I didn't use to be a Sherlock fan. Then I saw Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock and I was hooked. I read some, and then I watched the movie again, and I loved it!

So, obviously, this brings me to my first awesome Sherlock:

Robert Downey Jr.

robert downey jr and jude law manic gif

robert downey jr as sherlock

robert downey jr sherlock bed

Reasons to love him:

  • The Jude Law and this guy duo makes for a pretty dynamic Sherlock and Watson. I like how the two look on screen and their antics. It' hilarious to watch them argue, but you know that behind that there's a real friendship.
  • He nails arrogant.
  • His facial expressions crack me up.

Also, the way they portray the inner workings of Sherlock's mind during a fight, or just in general, when it's important, was one of the things that drew me in in the first place. Aaand the soundtrack suits the situations in the movie so well!

Benedict Cumberbatch

benedict cumberbatch sherlock

sherlock hair

sherlock too sexy for his sheet

Reasons to love him:

  • His hair *cue heart-shaped eyes emoji*
  • Alright, alright. He's also a big jerk and the fact that Sherlock takes place in modern day London gives a lot of room to do that even better. Lots of situations.
  • While Mr. Downey achieved arrogant through several facial expressions, Mr. Cumberbatch has a straight face for everyone and he's so freaking superior that it makes you wan to both hug him and punch him the face. Perfect.

I don't feel the Sherlock-Watson chemistry here as strongly, but it's not missing either. There are plenty of awesome moments, and maybe it's just me and my Robert Downey Jr. + Jude Law obsession.

If you haven't noticed it by now, I really love Robert Downey Jr. :D I'd love it if they made another Sherlock movie. The last one had a very open ending and it'd be great if something was in the works! They will make a lot Sherlock fans super happy!

What is your favorite screen Sherlock?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Featured Blogger: Wendy from Booklovercircumspect4

Today please welcome Wendy, who blogs at Booklovercircumspect4.

What's the meaning behind the name of your book blog?

Well I have always used circumspect4 as my alias so I wanted to include that in my blog name so people would recognize that name. I added booklover as the first part because I'm a lover of books and I write about mostly romance so I thought it worked.

How long have you been blogging?

I have been blogging since July 2015, but I have been reviewing books for NetGalley, Amazon, and Goodreads for a lot longer.

What genres do you write about most, and why?

I like romance novels because everyone can relate to love in any language. I also like the diversity of the different character personas and the different romantic themes different authors utilize.

Every blogger feels pressure at some point. What's something you feel pressured to do or not do on your blog? How do you deal with it?

Honestly, I work best under pressure. I've always done my best reviews when I feel pressured. I think I allow myself to think more clearly and openly because I know it has to get done.

Writing in books: Yes or hell to the no?

Hell to the no, but I admit that I've done it before. Now with ereaders, it is so much easier to highlight and make a note.

What's your favorite place to read or blog?

I read from the comfort of my cozy bed every night. I can provide a photo later because I'm answering this from my cell phone.

What have you learned from other bloggers or your readers?

That each blogger has their own views, thoughts, opinions, and biases on books. Particularly, I had a co-worker refer a book to me that she thought was so funny and a dynamite read. So I read it and I absolutely hated it.

Do you judge a book by its cover, or its lover?

Yes, I do and I feel terrible about it. But, I normally will read more about the book and its reviews before totally passing on a book.

Thank you for joining us today, Wendy! Remember to check out Wendy's blog, Booklovercircumspect4, and leave a comment or question.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Finding Sherlock Beyond Baker Street

Photo by paurian via Flickr.

Sherlock may be an icon of British fiction, but you can find him all over the world, as blogger and author Rachel McMillan is here today to prove. Rachel blogs at A Fair Substitute for Heaven and her Herringford and Watts series, about two female detectives who employ Sherlockian methods in Edwardian era Toronto, begins with The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder, publishing March 2016.

I am a near lifelong Sherlock Holmes fan. I cannot count the number of times I have stolen into the Canon and relived the adventures of Holmes and Watson. Since I was a kid, I longed to take literary pilgrimages to the most monumental sites in the Sherlockian sphere. When I studied in England for a summer, I spent my first free day hopping a train to London and wandering the Strand, finding Pall Mall, partaking in all of the sites I had read about in my favourite gaslit stories, and, of course, trekking to Baker Street. I called my brother excitedly: Jared! Jared! I am here! Where Sherlock lived! To which he responded: “You mean you’re at a fake museum for a guy who never lived?”

I harrumphed and triumphantly peeked into the nooks and crannies, alighted at the Persian slipper filled with tobacco, read the countless letters addressed to Mr. Sherlock Holmes hoping for his assistance.I was not ashamed to be a part of an international phenomenon: of the same strand that found readers from across the Globe wearing black arm bands the moment the end of The Final Problem was published.

On another trip to Europe, I went to Meiringen, Switzerland, spending a sunny day wandering around the tiny village, conjuring up images of Jeremy Brett (of the excellent Granada television series)walking the same paths and finally making it past the Sherlock Holmes statue and museum there to a spectacular view of the Reichenbach Falls. They have certainly capitalized on the Sherlock Holmes tourist population. There is an Arthur Conan Doyle Platz, a Holmestrasse (or street), a statue of Holmes, a Sherlock Holmes hotel, a Sherlock Alpen nightclub and various pictures and reminiscences and signs of Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes. Without Sherlock Holmes, I suspect everyone would skip poor little Meiringen.

(A few notes on the rather sketchy Reichenbach "funicular": Funicular, I believe, is synonymous with a rickety old, open wooden cart a la Road Runner when Wile E Coyote is on his tail and the bridge is truncated. The open and exposed cart, or so I saw from my vantage point safely at the bottom, chugs along a very sketchy track (the men were working on the track with hammer and nail once one funicular got back in preparation for the next) up, up, up to the top of the falls. There are no rails: just open wooden cart and tracks up the rock. Something else of note: there is an aptly placed hospital at the foot of the mountain, I assume to give solace to those who have plummeted to their death. Afraid of heights, I was not brave enough to make it to the top in the way Moriarty and Sherlock did.)

sherlock meiringen switzerland

Then again, on another trip to Europe, I found myself hanging around the Conan Doyle Pub in Edinburgh, which not only has fantastic food and beer, is a great place to sink into the world of everything Sherlock Holmes propaganda and ephemera.

conan doyle pub edinburgh

But though this intrepid Canadian has traipsed across the Atlantic to find Sherlock’s European sites, I am lucky enough to live in Toronto, Ontario: home to one of the largest collections of Arthur Conan Doyle books and memorabilia in the world. Pop-up exhibits, meetings and a room dedicated to the great detective at the Toronto Reference Library help keep the spirit of Holmes alive, Canadian style.

toronto reference library

Toronto also has its own Sherlockian Society, the Bootmakers, inspired by The Hound of the Baskervilles. Membership includes a quarterly review called Canadian Holmes.

canadian holmes

Later this Autumn, Toronto will host a new play Sherlock Holmes starring David Arquette (okay, so clearly not a purist adaptation) before it goes on to Los Angeles.

Sherlock and Arthur Conan Doyle are also a part of the extremely popular Victorian mystery series Murdoch Mysteries, wherein Toronto detective and forensic enthusiast William Murdoch, even (and very much fictionally) assists a visiting Arthur Conan Doyle. In another episode, Murdoch is teamed with a young man who believes he is the real Sherlock Holmes!

murdoch mysteries

Some people may not have the opportunity to traipse in the great detectives footsteps but the amazing thing about Sherlock is that he is universal: now more than ever with a renaissance largely borne of the BBC series. The careful enthusiast will deduce that Sherlockians can be found everywhere: even in Canada!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Review: THE HOUSE OF SILK by Anthony Horowitz

the house of silk anthony horowitz

Today Emma from Words and Peace is here to vlog about The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz, the first Sherlock Holmes pastiche to be officially authorized by the Conan Doyle estate. Is it worth reading? Check out Emma's video to find out!

This is Emma at Words And Peace, thrilled to be invited here today at Book Bloggers International for a special month on Sherlock Holmes.

Here is the video I prepared for you, about an awesome audiobook perfect for all Sherlock Holmes fans!

Have you read this book yet? What do you think?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015



Today Alex from The Sleepless Reader is here to review a collection of short stories based on the original Sherlock tales. They're written by John Taylor and–most importantly–the audiobook is narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch! Tell us everything we need to know, Alex.

John Taylor started writing Sherlock Holmes short-stories for BBC Radio and they were later released in a CD as The Unopened Casebook of Sherlock Holmes. The idea is that notes on old cases are found by Dr. Watson in a wooden chest in his bureau many years after they happened. The Rediscovered Railway Mysteries we never aired, but got an even better luck: their audiobook is narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch, who’s set to dethrone Jeremy Brett as the detective’s incarnation.

sherlock grinning

There are only four stories in this collection. In An Inscrutable Masquerade Sherlock is helping the police convict a man they’re convinced committed murder. In his basement he’s secretly and single-handedly inventing the science of ballistics and gives a warning to Watson: for our safety, and while I’m working on this case don’t leave 221B Baker Street don’t let anyone in. But how could Watson say no to an old friend that comes knocking?

In The Conundrum of Coach 13 an American business man asks Holmes to help him find 5 million in gold bullion that disappear from a highly secured train carriage. In The Trinity Vicarage Larceny the pair travels to the country to help a bishop discover who stole the church funds. A strange figure in a wide-brim hat has been seen around the village and becomes the first suspect. The 10:59 Assassin was my favorite story because Watson did a bit of forensics, Sherlock was able to show off his physical abilities, the end was satisfying and it had the ONLY female character in the four stories.

Writing-wise, Taylor does a good job of using Conan Doyle’s style. There were only a couple of times where I felt the canon wouldn’t have gone so far (e.g. a detailed description of a bullet wound to the head). I wish Dr. Watson hadn’t been so easily duped in the first story (one of my pet-hate tropes is the feeble-minded Watson) and that we’d seen more of the maniac and restless Holmes, but these were short stories of about 30 minutes each and it’s tough to develop both a well-built mystery and characterization.

Cumberbatch narration was great. Even if his American accent isn’t entirely convincing, he redeems himself in making Watson so thoughtful and likable and Sherlock sharp and self-assured. It was difficult to disassociate Cumberbatch from his character and I wonder how many people buy the audiobook just because he narrates it (guilty!). Someone should persuaded him to read the canon.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Female Detectives Inspired by Sherlock Holmes

female sherlocks

Countless detectives, real and fictional, have been inspired by Sherlock Holmes, and that includes the ladies. Author Amy Thomas, who blogs at Girl Meets Sherlock and podcasts with the Baker Street Babes, is here today to tell us about some of her favorite female Sherlocks. Take it away, Amy!

For most of literary and screen history, Sherlock Holmes has been male. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote about a vocational detective in a day when many career paths weren’t yet open to women; however, Doyle surrounded Holmes with clever ladies—notably Irene Adler, who outsmarted him in A Scandal in Bohemia and Mary Morstan, the first wife of Dr. Watson, whom Holmes complimented on her potential for detective work in The Sign of Four. The casting of Lucy Liu as Joan Watson in Elementary broke a glass ceiling of sorts, but we have yet to meet a female Holmes who makes it into the public consciousness in a major way. (This may change if acting legend Emma Thompson gets her wish of being the first mainstream female Holmes.) Until then, however, we have a buffet of fantastic female detectives inspired by the pipe-smoking resident of Baker Street.

1) Cora Strayer: The only non-fictional woman on this list is Cora Strayer, who opened her own detective agency around 1899. Ms. Strayer was involved in murder investigations and other types of cases, a notable police chase, and eventually became the leader of a female cavalry regiment. It seems no one has yet written a definitive historical or novelized book about her, but you can read much more about her incredible exploits at the Strange Company blog. What Strayer shares with Holmes is her brazen confidence in her skills as an amateur detective. Not once does she appear to have been daunted by the fact that women were barred from being official detectives during the Victorian period, much like Holmes, who had a limitless belief that he could do a better job at solving cases than the police could.

2) Phryne Fisher: Phryne is the protagonist of a series of novels by Australian author Kerry Greenwood. Miss Fisher’s exploits take place in Melbourne in the late 1920s, where she uses her wealth and wit to solve all kinds of crimes. The two main things she shares with Holmes are keen observational powers—like him, she uses small clues like dirt on someone’s shoes or the type of ink used in a letter to solve mysteries—and his bohemian lifestyle. She’s a liberated woman who refuses to play by any kind of societal rules. Like Holmes, this means she’s sometimes relegated to the fringes of society, but also like Holmes, she doesn’t much mind, because that’s where the clues are found. You can read more about her in her novels and also watch her in action in the brilliantly realized Australian TV series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.

3) Nancy Drew: Moving forward in time, we find a classic from many of our childhoods, the indomitable Nancy Drew, who was created by a publisher named Edward Stratemeyer and written by many authors under the shared pseudonym of Carolyn Keene. Nancy is the embodiment of the woman who does everything she pleases without a hair out of place or relinquishing her determined femininity. One of the main traits she shares with Holmes is his reliance on friendship. It’s almost impossible to think of Sherlock Holmes without thinking of Dr. Watson, and when we remember Nancy, it’s equally hard to forget her friends Bess. George, and Ned, who accompany her on her adventures. As children, we wanted to be part of their posse, just as adults, many of us idolize the bond between Holmes and Watson. It’s worth giving Nancy another look for the sake of nostalgia, or, if you’re so inclined, to take part in the ongoing, nuanced discussion about what she means as a feminist cultural icon. Her books, both the original and subsequent series, remain available, Emma Roberts portrayed her on film in 2007, and modern classic TV detective Veronica Mars can be viewed as an update of her character.

4) Temperance Brennan: Forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan, protagonist of currently-set mystery novels by Kathy Reichs, has a career that is less directly like Holmes’s vocation than most of the women on this list, but she, perhaps, owes the most to him when it comes to temperament. She shares his brilliance, his meticulous methods, and his conviction of his own rightness. Though she begins at a different starting point—a victim’s bones—she uses Holmesian methods of painstaking research (albeit with the inclusion of modern technology) to solve gruesome crimes. The culture understanding of Brennan comes largely from the television show Bones, on which Emily Deschanel portrays a woman who illustrates the strengths of a mind as objective as Holmes’s, but also its weaknesses where emotion and relationships are concerned. Read about Reichs’s original conception of the character in her novels and watch Deschanel’s version on Fox’s Bones.

5) Thursday Next: The least traditional detective on this list is undoubtedly the protagonist of Jasper Fforde’s novels about a futuristic, dystopian England in which an entire police force exists within the world of fiction. Thursday’s love of the written word and her English cultural heritage reflects Holmes’s own extensive knowledge and love of Englishness, and her absolute calm in the face of utter absurdity (like her journey into Jane Eyre) is evocative of his objectivity in the face of seemingly supernatural ideas like that of a spectral hound. Thursday is every bit her own woman, as independent and stubborn as Holmes on his most cantankerous day, and every bit as engaging. Read more about her in her novels.

This list could go on and on, because nearly every detective in existence owes something to Sherlock Holmes, from Miss Marple to Maisie Dobbs. This is good news for all of us, because until we have a female portrayal of Holmes to call our own, we will never lack for exciting, courageous, and brilliant female detectives to read about and enjoy.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Review: A SCANDAL IN BOHEMIA by Arthur Conan Doyle

a scandal in bohemia by arthur conan doyle illustration

A Scandal in Bohemia introduced one of the most intriguing and iconic of all the secondary characters in Sherlock Holmes' world, Irene Adler. Here with a review of the short story is Maree from Life, the Universe and Cats.

To Sherlock Holmes, she is always the woman.

So opens A Scandal in Bohemia, a Sherlock Holmes short story contained within The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

Dr Watson is happily domesticated - married, and in civil practice, when his footsteps lead him past 221B Baker Street.

He calls in on his old friend, and finds him about to take on a case for the King of Bohemia that has the potential to cause a great deal of, well, scandal.

A few years before, the King had become involved with an opera singer of surpassing beauty - Irene Adler. Now, Miss Adler possess a photograph of the two of them together - the only proof that the relationship happened - and she's threatening to expose the King.

Enter Sherlock Holmes and his trusty sidekick and biographer, Dr Watson.

Holmes is confident that he can recover the photo and no damage will be done to the King, who is set to marry very shortly.

However, Sherlock Holmes reckoned without the resourcefulness of one Irene Adler.

A Scandal in Bohemia might only be a few pages long, but it's definitely an entertaining short, as Holmes goes to what might be considered extreme lengths to recover the King's photo, only to be outclassed at the last moment by the somewhat shadowy Miss Adler.

We don't see a lot of her in the story as a character - she's talked about, speculated about, and there are vague descriptions, so everything we know about her is filtered through the good Doctor's memory as he recounts the story.

I first read the story many years ago, as an impressionable young reader, and I've never forgotten that opening line.

It's a maybe 10-minute read, but like all good short stories, I suppose, the devil is in the details, and in the things that are not said. It's definitely worth picking up. :)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Strange Case of Arthur Conan Doyle and THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES

the hound of the baskervilles
"The Hound of the Baskervilles II" by MsGolightly via Deviantart.

Hello book bloggers, and welcome to Sherlock Month! For the next four weeks Book Bloggers International is bringing you guest posts that are all Sherlock, all the time. We hope you enjoy!

The Hound of the Baskervilles is arguably the most famous of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes novels. But did you know there's a real-life mystery surrounding the book that's like something out of the case files of the great detective himself? Anachronist from Portable Pieces of Thoughts is here to tell us all about this bizarre tale of death and possible conspiracy in Devon.

arthur conan doyle
Arthur Conan Doyle

Imagine you are a fairly acclaimed writer who has managed to create a great fictional character plenty of people admire. Still nothing lasts forever and the writer’s block hasn’t been invented yesterday. You’ve somehow run out of ideas, killed your character off in a huff and now you realize people want more and more brilliant stories from you. About him and with him of course. Can you revive Sherlock Holmes after a kind of hiatus lasting eight long years  and make it a successful comeback?

Meanwhile your life seems to go to the dogs as well. You’ve just returned from a short stint as a field doctor in the Second Boer War. It wasn’t pleasant. You’ve chronicled your experiences in a controversial book which was criticized by the military establishment, your former employer. You’ve been narrowly defeated in your bid for a seat in Parliament and along with that came financial difficulties. You are a married man but your wife has been an invalid for some time and is clearly dying. People start gossiping about you and a younger woman of your acquaintance. What could be done to turn their attention the other way? A new successful story would do the trick nicely, right? Still it is not easy to think of a good idea, worth of nobody else but Sherlock Holmes and his faithful sidekick, Dr Watson.

Bertram Fletcher Robinson
Bertram Fletcher Robinson

Still what friends are for? Doyle was lucky to meet and befriend Bertram Fletcher Robinson, a 30-year-old journalist working for Daily Express and that man proved to be simply godsend. He told Doyle the legend of Richard Cabell which became the fundamental inspiration for the Baskerville tale of a hellish hound and a cursed country squire.

Richard Cabell could be called only a barbarian and a rogue. He lived mainly for hunting and was what in those days was described as a 'monstrously evil man'. That reputation was gained for, amongst other things, immorality and having sold his soul to the Devil (I do hope Devil paid him well). There was also a rumour that he had murdered his wife. On 5 July 1677, he died and the night of his interment people saw a phantom pack of hounds come baying across the moor to howl at his tomb. From that night on, he could be found leading the phantom pack across the moor, usually on the anniversary of his death. If the pack were not out hunting, they could be found running around his grave howling and shrieking. In an attempt to lay the soul to rest, the villagers built a large building around the tomb, and to be doubly sure a huge slab was placed at the entrance so nothing – neither a devil nor a hound – could escape. Still was the evil squire really haunting his subjects or was it just a figment of their imagination? A nice charade, something right up the valley of the famous detective who used to say: "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

The truth was such that both gentlemen decided to cooperate and in early March, 1901, Doyle wrote to the editor of The Strand, offering the magazine a "real creeper" of a story, with one stipulation: "I must do it with my friend Fletcher Robinson [who] gave me the central idea and the local colour." Doyle wanted fifty pounds per thousand words for this joint effort, and when The Strand said yes, he and Robinson went off to Dartmoor together to tour the moors, soak up some of that "local color," and write the story. Nowadays it seems to be impossible to determine the precise extent of Robinson's role, but in all probability he merely acted as a 'creative trigger'. Once the element of Sherlock Holmes was added to the original idea, the novel evolved beyond the joint project that was originally posited. Robinson himself conceded that his part in the collaboration was restricted to that of an 'assistant plot producer'.

Still some people didn’t believe his words. Why?

rodger garrick steele
Rodger Garrick-Steele. Photo credited to Marc Hill.

Rodger Garrick-Steele, a former psychologist, has come up with the startling theory, based on letters, research into wills and death certificates and a certain amount of circumstantial evidence. At the core of his theory, he claims that The Hound of the Baskervilles was actually written by Bertram Robinson, who died mysteriously at the age of 36. According to Garrick-Steele, Arthur Conan Doyle stole The Hound of the Baskervilles and then poisoned the true author, colluding with his wife, Gladys, with whom he was supposed to have a passionate affair. The accusations were presented  in a 446-page manuscript entitled The House of the Baskervilles, after 11 years of  thorough investigation. Garrick- Steele was so persuasive that his claim has even aroused the interest of Scotland Yard, imagine that.

Mr Garrick-Steele's own detective work began in 1989 when he moved into Park Hill House in the Devon village of Ipplepen on the edge of Dartmoor, the setting for The Hound of the Baskervilles. It was also the place where Bertram Fletcher Robinson was buried beside his parents at a cemetery near the St. Andrew’s Church. The official cause of his death is recorded as 'enteric fever (3 weeks) and peritonitis (24 hours)'. Others with a bent for the occult bizarrely attributed his death to a curse linked with an Egyptian artifact called the Unlucky Mummy (very Victorian don’t you think? I would love to hear more about it!).

Garrick-Steele decided that it was poison which shortened the life of the co-author of one of the most popular Sherlock Holmes stories, and that popularity exactly was the real motive of the crime. Let’s face it, the book was a huge bestseller, resulting in an offer of over $4,000 a story for the American rights to more Holmes-and-Watson tales. In addition, The Strand agreed to pay a hundred pounds per thousand words for the English rights to the same material. Say what you might, the time that Conan Doyle spent on Dartmoor was a good investment, and he owed an enormous debt to the man who took him there, Bertram Fletcher Robinson. Did he repay it with a murder? Was he afraid he had inadvertently created himself a literary rival? Was it about Gladys, Robinson’s wife?

Unfortunately it seems just a sensational theory nothing else and most probably we’ll never be offered the proof to the contrary. The Exeter Diocese Consistory Court has blocked a bid to exhume the remains of Fletcher-Robinson and test it for traces of poison, branding the theory of Mr. Garrick- Steele as “totally unreliable”. Well, it was indeed a bit convoluted as it implicated the adulterous pair, and relied on a cover-up involving Gladys's brother, the doctor who signed the death certificate, the undertakers and the then-rector of Ipplepen – a bit too many people so save a writer’s career. Still it sounded great didn’t it? Almost like one of the mysteries Sherlock Holmes loved solving in his cocaine-free time.

My sources: