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!


  1. This was a fun post! Thank you for sharing your Sherlock love!! :)

  2. For a look at the first Sherlock Holmes performers around the world (close to 60 countries in 3 parts) read the essay "Who's On First, It's Not So Elementary" free download at: http://www.nplh.co.uk/sherlock-holmes-around-the-world.html

  3. For a history of Canadian Sherlock Holmes performers read the essay "Excellent Fellows From Canada"(in 6 parts) free download at: http://www.nplh.co.uk/excellent-fellows-from-canada.html


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