Posts Tagged ‘sherlock holmes’

Over the last few days I’ve been enjoying a trawl through the DVDs of the majestic Granada Sherlock Holmes adaptations starring the late Jeremy Brett as Holmes, with David Burke and Edward Hardwicke assuming the role of Dr Watson at separate points in time. However, each time I take the box set off the shelves I get mildly snarked at the inability of whoever was chosen to do the proofreading of the blurb. It’s niggling but inaccuracy drives me nuts…

The Crooked Man has become A Crooked Man; The Red-Headed League transformed into The Redheaded LeagueThe Devil’s Foot is now The Devils Foot; The Bruce-Partington Plans lost its hyphen and rendered singular as The Bruce Partington Plan; rather than plural; and finally Shoscombe Old Place transformed into The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place as per the original short story title rather than the TV episode.

Also, it was not a ITV1 series – at the times of original transmission the network was named ITV and John Thaw appeared in Inspector Morse not Morse.

It’s just plain bloody sloppiness and it’s annoying. Imagine the uproar if a book was littered with such inaccuracies – though if it were a Dan Brown tome then a beneficial side effect could be literary improvement. It’s easy enough to check these things – just look at the opening credits of the episodes. There were 41 of them and locating the title would take less than a minute. So a proper job done within the hour and this customer would have been much happier.

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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created Professor James Moriarty specifically to kill off Sherlock Holmes, reasoning correctly that an extraordinary criminal had to be responsible for the death of his mighty creation. In The Final Problem, at the picturesque and deadly Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland, the two titans of law and crime were supposed to have engaged in mortal combat and plunged to their deaths.

Sherlock - series 2In The Reichenbach Fall the acting abilities of Benedict Cumberbatch and Andrew Scott set an incredibly high benchmark for future clashes between Holmes and Moriarty. Never before in the same onscreen narrative have the Prince of Detectives and the Napoleon of Crime been so evenly matched – operating as intellectual equals but diametrically opposed in terms of morality. Like Sherlock, Moriarty needs a challenge in order to prevent stagnation and in the consulting detective he finally found a worthy opponent. In many ways he knew Sherlock better than anyone and played upon the detective’s cleverness and arrogance in order to ensnare him in an elaborate and seemingly inescapable trap.

It was entirely apt for Andrew Scott’s Moriarty to accept his own death as the only way of defeating Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock. Personally I’ll only accept that the slippery bugger is truly dead when his neatly severed head is displayed in the fridge at 221b Baker Street. After casting a shadow across the first two series of Sherlock it’s probably time for Moriarty to bow out. Although Scott’s astonishing performance is going to be much missed other villainous characters are lurking within the canon awaiting an airing. The master blackmailer Charles Augutus Milverton and Moriarty’s chief of staff Colonel Sebastian Moran to name but two…

It is with a heavy heart that I take up my pen to write these the last words in which I shall ever record the singular gifts by which my friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes was distinguished.

The Final Problem

The Death of Sherlock Holmes. Original illustration from The Strand Magazine by Sidney Paget.

The performance of any actor is built upon the material they are given to work with and when Stephen Thompson was announced as the writer for this most important and apocalyptic of tales I did have concerns at the final product adapted from The Final Problem. Thompson’s previous script for Sherlock was The Blind Banker and for me it remains the weakest story of the series to date. Similarly his work on the 2011 series of Doctor Who left me unimpressed. Thankfully I was proven spectacularly wrong and I love when that happens. The Reichenbach Fall is without doubt one of the best 90 minutes of script written for television in the last decade. I could be disparaging and wonder if Steven Moffat and/or Mark Gatiss added to the mix with rewrites, but it’s Thompson’s name on screen and so the credit for this unpredictable, emotionally draining, and magnificent piece of writing rightly belongs to him. Any television that sets the media alight with praise and vast public speculation as to the resolution deserves laudation and celebration.

Despite being one of the most famous events in the entire canon this clash of the titans has only been dramatised sparsely. The best interpretation had previously come with The Final Problem, the 13th and final episode of the 1984 series The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Starring Jeremy Brett and Eric Porter as Holmes and Moriarty respectively, the finale was filmed on location at the actual Reichenbach Falls and concluded with two stuntmen plunging down the falls on cables. Nearly 30 years on it remains an incredible stunt – far above and beyond the naff CGI plunge depicted in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (which at no point even bothers to explain how Holmes survived the fall).

In common with the source material, The Reichenbach Fall is topped and tailed by the musings of Watson over the loss of his friend. Martin Freeman gives an utterly brilliant and heartbreaking performance as John – a man shattered by tragedy who simply can’t believe that his friend has gone, along with his reason for a purposeful existence. Deep underneath he clearly blames himself because if he hadn’t extolled the incredible talents of Sherlock to the public then his friend would have remained out of the public eye and not become a target for the press. With all the recent revelations about the intrusiveness of the press into private lives this story acted as a timely reminder of the power of the Fourth Estate to build up a person and to subsequently destroy them.

Sherlock - The Reichenbach FallSherlock’s fall from grace in the public eye by Moriarty’s manipulation of the press is helped along nicely by the arrogance and jealousy of individuals such as Anderson and Donovan and the naivety of eager journalist Kitty Riley. They simply can’t accept that Sherlock could be smarter than them and so are quite happy to add fuel to the fire that burns away the consulting detective’s aura of infallibility. Even Mycroft’s naivety over the abilities of Moriarty to control a situation contributed to his brother’s downfall.

Some have expressed surprise that Lestrade should be targeted for death alongside John and Mrs Hudson but it’s glaringly obvious why this should have been the case. Lestrade is the one member of the “establishment” who remained loyal to Sherlock. The “professional” has faced too many mysteries (like facing down “the Hound of the Baskervilles”) alongside the “amateur” to scoff at the latter’s abilities. It’s worth betting that when the time comes Lestrade will relish enacting revenge upon those colleagues who doubted Sherlock and contributed to his downfall.

…whom I shall ever regard as the best and the wisest man whom I have ever known.

Conan Doyle always claimed that he had no intention of resurrecting Holmes after the events at Reichenbach Falls. Indeed his diary at the time contained a satisfied entry of “Killed Holmes”. So why didn’t he have the great detective die in an unambiguous hail of bullets in front of witnesses, rather than having Watson deducing the outcome of the ultimate encounter between Holmes and Moriarty based upon footprints and a note left behind by his friend? Throughout the preceding stories it had been demonstrated time and time again that Watson is incapable of deducing anything! It’s always been my view that Conan Doyle left himself a whacking great get-out clause in case he ever wanted to bring Holmes back to life, which he did after being offered huge sums of money by his American publishers in 1903: $25,000 for six stories, $30,000 for eight stories, and $45,000 for twelve stories. A phenomenal sum of money in those days.

The Reichenbach Falls (Turner, 1804)However, in The Reichenbach Fall Holmes DID plunge to his death. Right in front of Watson. There can’t be a shadow of a doubt that the great detective is dead. Except of course for the fact he is alive at the end of the episode. Unless Series 3 is going to be entitled John and Sherlock (Deceased), Sherlock clearly faked his death. But how? Ever since the episode concluded the Internet has been abuzz with theories as to how Sherlock could have faked his death so publicly. According to Steven Moffat a whacking great clue to the solution was shown in plain sight – but no one has clocked it yet. That Molly was involved in the cover-up seems almost a given. And surely John being sideswiped by that bicycle couldn’t have been a coincidence…

In the midst of all the doom, gloom and frequent WTF?! moments, the programme makers took time out to poke fun at one of the great icons of the Holmes mythos: the deerstalker. Sherlock’s attempt to deduce the etymology of a deerstalker, his bemusement as to it’s and his subsequent description of it as a “death frisbee” was hysterical. John taking a mannequin hanging from the ceiling of the living room completely in his stride was a lovely comical insight into how everyday life at 221b Baker Street must seem utterly surreal to any visitor to the address.

Another lovely touch of humour and nod to past interpretations of the canon came with John’s visit to The Diogenes Club, where Mycroft spends a great deal of his time. The club was introduced in The Greek Interpreter and fan speculation across the years, building upon the connections of the elder Holmes brother to the British Government, has developed the establishment into a front organisation for the British Secret Service – particularly in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes and the works of Kim Newman. The elderly gentleman who summons the club staff to deal with the rather noisy John is 92 year old Douglas Wilmer who portrayed Sherlock Holmes in the television series Sherlock Holmes between 1965 and 1968 and in the 1975 film The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother.

Along with Doctor Who, Sherlock is an example of what great event television should be. Intelligently written material bought to life by dedicated and capable actors and production teams who don’t trumpet every plot in a desperate press-orientated attempts to gain ratings. Steven Moffat has rallied against spoilers being leaked and he’s quite right to do so – I love watching well-crafted television where you don’t have a clue what is going to happen next.

Comes Series 3…

After the mind-bending opener of A Scandal in Belgravia next up for series 2 of Sherlock was the modernisation of the most famous Sherlock Holmes of them all. First published in The Strand Magazine between August 1901 and April 1902, The Hound of the Baskervilles is the most adapted story from the canon with over 20 versions having been produced.

Sherlock - series 2

From Basil Rathbone in 1939, Peter Cushing in 1959, through to Jeremy Brett in 1988, all the most famous Sherlocks have faced Conan Doyle’s monstrous hound. It is said that the lead actor in Doctor Who is never truly accepted until he has battled the Daleks. In a similar vein any Holmes/Watson team must encounter The Hound to be cemented in the public imagination. So, it was only a matter of time before Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman found themselves on a fog-shrouded Dartmoor listening to the baying of an unearthly hound…

Sitting as it does within the genre of crime along with the rest of the Holmes canon, it is often forgotten that The Hound of the Baskervilles is also one of the earliest popular horror novels. In his television series, and tie-in book, Nightmare: The Birth of Horror, Sir Christopher Fraying cites The Hound of the Baskervilles as one of the four stories from Victorian or Edwardian times that gave birth to the modern horror novel. The other stories being Frankenstein, Dracula, and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. August company indeed. Conan Doyle himself described the book as “…a real creeper” when he wrote to his mother ahead of starting the writing.

That Mr Mark Gatiss, with his mastery of the macabre and as a general purveyor of Kensington Gore. should be called upon to provide the script for this episode seems to have been a surprise to no one.

Mr Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound

Perhaps the greatest issue associated with adapting The Hound of the Baskervilles has lain in the realisation of the titular animal. Over the years camera trickery and special effects have been employed in often vain attempts to produce a convincing Black Shuck. Gatiss decided to avoid the problem to a certain extent by bearing in mind a maxim of Holmes‘ from A Study in Scarlet: “Where there is no imagination there is no horror”. Conan Doyle’s narrative was reshaped into a psychological horror thriller whilst retaining the aura of the supernatural that pervaded the original story. Much of the terrifying nature of the hound was down to the misinterpretation of reality by minds affected by chemicals.

Sherlock - The Hounds of Baskerville

This adaptation was aided enormously by filming on Dartmoor proper. Whilst other locations can be doubled up by utilising locations in Wales (such as the Bush Inn, St Hilary, Vale of Glamorgan doubling as The Cross Keys pub) nothing represents Dartmoor better than Dartmoor itself. The Devon moorland is as much a character of the story as Holmes and Watson – a primeval realm where the supernatural could, just possibly, enter into our world. Director Paul McGuigan used the magnificent vistas of natural beauty offered by Dartmoor to their full potential. The image of Benedict Cumberbatch standing atop a tor gazing across the seemingly enternal moor must surely enter the lexicon of memorable images from the last decade of television. McGuigan followed up his breathless interpretation of A Scandal in Belgravia with a whole different series of camera moves to capture the paranoia, spookiness and gathering horror of Mark Gatiss’ script. Nighttime shenanigans on the supernatural moor contrasted sharply with the clinical whiteness of the Baskerville military research centre.

Whilst the imagery of Frankland’s gas-mask clad, red-eyed visage morphing into true memory after Knight’s perception of the hound for twenty years was one of the most terrifying pieces of footage shown on television in years, I couldn’t help but have the phrase “Are you my mummy?” running through the mind. Between them Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss have assisted in creating some of the best “event television” since the 1970s. A Hinchcliffe and Holmes for the 21st century.

A masterstroke from Gatiss was to have Sherlock himself affected by the chemical weapon that had been used on Henry Knight. Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance as a Sherlock Holmes briefly doubting his own senses and the logical world that he had spent his entire existence inhabiting was a joy to watch. For a moment Sherlock was as paranoid as Henry – a lovely performance from the ever-reliable Russell Tovey, who also affected a beautiful air of disbelief when Sherlock deduced the events of his morning and journey to London. Full credit to the writers when they invent these oh-so believable deductions for Holmes to impress the world with.

Watson and Lestrade addressing each other by their first names demonstrates a camaraderie between the two characters unique to the Moffat/Gatiss vision of the canon. One can easily imagine John and Greg down the pub on a Friday night knocking back pints and bitching about Sherlock and his irritating way of always being right about everything. It’s a testament to the performance of Rupert Graves that Lestrade is a likable character and friend to Watson. In one of the audio commentaries for the Sherlock series 1 DVD it was pointed out that Lestrade could feature in a spin-off series of his own without much suspension of disbelief. It’s not that Lestrade is a moron, it’s simply that all other representatives of the law pale in comparison next to Sherlock.

As well as references to other Holmes stories, the hallucinogenic gas from The Devil’s Foot and Holmes’ wielding of the harpoon from Black Peter, Gatiss managed to throw in a couple of homages to the creation of The Hound of the Baskervilles. The suppliers of the meat to the pub being Undershaw is a reference to the house where Conan Doyle wrote the book. The tour guide being named Fletcher is in all likelihood a nod to Bertram Fletcher Robinson who imparted legends of ghostly hounds to Conan Doyle and acted as a guide around Dartmoor during research for the novel.

The Hounds of Baskerville was another palpable hit for the Sherlock team, with the final scene setting up the series finale of The Reichenbach Fall with Mycroft ordering the release of Moriarty from confinement….

Comes The Fall…

For once the viewing public across the UK demonstrated a capability to watch more intelligent fare than mindless televised Victorian freak shows and made the first series of Sherlock a palpable hit in terms of both outstanding ratings and critical acclaim. The adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr John H Watson retooled for the 21st century had raised eyebrows from many aficionados of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary creations. However, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss proved once more that they are able to produce entertaining and enthralling drama to a level of excellence not often seen at the BBC since the golden days of the 1970s.

Sherlock - series 2

Given the cliffhanging nature of The Great Game it’s just as well the public and critics demanded more or we’d have been left with one of the most frustrating finales since those of The Italian Job, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Blake’s 7. Sherlock and John in an explosive Mexican stand-off with Moriarty, snipers, and a vest laden with explosives. We all knew they’d get out of the conundrum, but how? If you guessed how Moffat and Gatiss would resolve the drama then put your hand up now…Ok…now put it down as you’re clearly lying!

For my own part I thought the story might commence with Sherlock and John being pulled out of the rubble of the destroyed swimming pool with the whereabouts of Moriarty a mystery. The gag with the mobile phone and Staying Alive as the ringtone was genius. Also, pure comedy gold was provided by Benedict Cumberbatch and Andrew Scott as the latter apologises for the interruption to the apocalyptic proceedings.

In the comments I made about The Great Game I wasn’t overly complimentary about Andrew Scott’s performance as Jim Moriarty. Yet more proof that I can talk incredible shit. Rewatching The Great Game before A Scandal in Belgravia transmitted I suddenly fell in love with this new version of The Napoleon of Crime. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and the laid-back (near to comatose) interpretation of Professor Moriarty in that film doubtless helped changed my opinion. Not for one moment did Robert Downey Jr’s Holmes seem in the slightest danger from Jared Harris’ Moriarty. With Scott’s Moriarty and the writing of Moffat and Gatiss you don’t have any idea what the next instant will bring.

To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex.

A Scandal in Bohemia was the first Sherlock Holmes short story and introduced the character of Irene Adler. She has remained one of the most memorable women in the canon and is frequently used as a romantic interest for Holmes. In the original story Adler was a New Jersey-born opera singer who is using a compromising photograph to protect herself from the machinations of the King of Bohemia. For A Scandal in Belgravia, Moffat re-imagined Adler as a British-born dominatrix who has compromising images of a female member of the Royal Family stored on an encrypted smart phone. As you do…

Sherlock - A Scandal in Belgravia

Moffat’s script appropriated beats from the original tale (Holmes disguising himself as a vicar and Watson faking a fire so that Adler would be tricked into revealing the location of her safe) and wove them into another engrossing, and occasionally bonkers, narrative that revolved around a deception plan against international terrorism that is compromised by Moriarty with the unknowing assistance of Sherlock. In many ways all the crimes, attempted assassinations and political shenanigans were simply the backdrop to the relationship between Sherlock and Irene.

Over the decades millions and millions of wasted words have been devoted to the subject of the sexuality of Sherlock Holmes. Holmes isn’t heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or Watson-sexual – he’s simply asexual. Love and sex for him hold no interest as they are orientated around emotions. His regard for Irene Adler in A Scandal in Bohemia wasn’t love but a respect for her abilities. In A Scandal in Belgravia it’s clear that Sherlock is throughly confused by his inability to read Irene and the feelings that subsequently emerged. In turn she is confused by her attraction to him. Benedict Cumberbatch and Lara Pulver spark beautifully off each other as the couple that were born to be together but can never be. A kind of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor relationship with logic and respect at the root.

Was Sherlock’s rescuing of Irene at the conclusion real or simply a manifestation of his wish that he could have saved her? I’m going with it being reality. Irene is far too good a character to despatch to literary Valhalla and the door needs to be left wide open for a possible return in series 3 or beyond.

Forget Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law. Wipe them from your mind. They are not the Holmes and Watson for the 21st century: that honour belongs to Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Neither are capable of putting a foot wrong in their performances and the chemistry between the actors is so strong it’s almost visible.

As the story takes place over many months and during the course of it there is a clear mellowing of Sherlock’s character. Though the influence of Irene is behind some of the changes, the time spent in the company of John has clearly affected the purely analytical nature of the world’s only consulting detective. His cold dismissal of Molly’s appearance and aspirations for loving him at the Baker Street Christmas gathering are indicative of the heartless Sherlock of the first series but his subsequent genuine apology is a new twist.

Mrs Hudson’s relationship to Sherlock and Mycroft intrigues and hints at a previous association with the Holmes family. Could she have been their housekeeper in days of old and that’s why Sherlock has that view of her? Mycroft is certainly cow-towed by her. Sherlock’s fury against the Americans that have injured her is beyond any anger that he had previously demonstrated.

Rupert Grave’s Lestrade may not have been allocated the largest amount of screen time but he certainly picked up the best line award when advising a fellow officer to listen to what Sherlock has to say but to resist the temptation to punch him.

Moffat cheekily referenced many of the original Conan Doyle stories with the montage of cases that Sherlock and John tackled after the encounter with Moriarty. The Greek Interpreter became The Greek Interpreter, The Speckled Band was The Speckled Blonde, and The Naval Treaty was changed to The Naval Treatment. The unseen adventure of “The Vatican Cameos” (referenced in The Hound of the Baskervilles) tipped John to the fact there was a gun in Irene’s safe rigged to fire. And were the thumbs in the fridge at 221b Baker Street a reference to The Engineer’s Thumb? Moffat even manages to get a deerstalker onto Sherlock’s head. It must be such fun raiding the canon for all this stuff. When is the knowing nod to “The Giant Rat of Sumatra” going to take a bow?

One of the reasons for the instant success of Sherlock was the incredible direction of A Study in Pink by Paul McGuigan. The original pilot version had a largely similar script to the final televised product but what it lacked was the sheen, class and confidence that McGuigan brought to the proceedings. The on-screen manifestations of texts and character thoughts were his idea and a narrative verve that sets Sherlock apart from all other dramas.

A Scandal in Belgravia was an outstanding opening to the second series of Sherlock. Ignore all the nonsensical allegations of sexism that have been thrown at Steven Moffat and savour 90 minutes of the finest drama that the BBC is likely to air in 2012 or any other year.

Comes The Hound…

The second series of the highly-acclaimed Sherlock arrives on Sunday 1st January 2012. Three of the most famous adventures for Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson updated for the 21st century from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic 19th century stories.

The Woman: A Scandal in Belgravia (based on A Scandal in Bohemia, in which Sherlock Holmes meets his equal in the form of Irene Adler).

The Hound: “The Hounds of Baskerville” (based on The Hound of the Baskervilles, arguably the most famous of the original stories).

The Fall: The Reichenbach Fall (based on The Final Problem, the final confrontation between Holmes and Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls)

Sherlock - series 2 promo

Sherlock Holmes: The House of Silk (UK cover)With the recent successful resurgence of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson in the mediums of TV and film (with Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman and Robert Downey Jr & Jude Law respectively) it was only a matter of time before the literary incarnation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s great characters followed suit.

On 1 November 2011 a brand new Sherlock Holmes novel “The House of Silk” will be published. Unlike previous novels this 85,000 word story from the pen of Anthony Horowitz, famous for the Alex Rider novels and ITV series “Foyle’s War”, has been written with the full endorsement of the Conan Doyle Estate.

This marks the first time that the Conan Doyle Estate has upheld an official novel as canon, outside the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Stripped back to the original style of Conan Doyle, “The House of Silk” will be as much as part of the official Sherlock Holmes timeline as “The Hound of the Baskervilles” and “The Speckled Band”.

The book is set in November 1890, but as written by Watson in a retirement home, a year after the death of Holmes at his home in Sussex. The story opens with a train robbery in Boston, and moves to the innocuous setting of Wimbledon – but, Holmes says, the tale was too monstrous, too appalling to reveal until now. “It is no exaggeration to say it could tear apart the very fabric of society”, he writes in the prologue.

Publisher’s blurb for “The House of Silk”

THE GAME’S AFOOT… It is November 1890 and London is gripped by a merciless winter. Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are enjoying tea by the fire when an agitated gentleman arrives unannounced at 221b Baker Street. He begs Holmes for help, telling the unnerving story of a scar-faced man with piercing eyes who has stalked him in recent weeks. Intrigued by the man’s tale, Holmes and Watson find themselves swiftly drawn into a series of puzzling and sinister events, stretching from the gas-lit streets of London to the teeming criminal underworld of Boston. As the pair delve deeper into the case, they stumble across a whispered phrase ‘the House of Silk’: a mysterious entity and foe more deadly than any Holmes has encountered, and a conspiracy that threatens to tear apart the very fabric of society itself… With devilish plotting and excellent characterisation, bestselling author Anthony Horowitz delivers a first-rate Sherlock Holmes mystery for a modern readership whilst remaining utterly true to the spirit of the original Conan Doyle books. Sherlock Holmes is back with all the nuance, pace and powers of deduction that make him the world’s greatest and most celebrated detective.

Anthony Horowitz can viewed on YouTube reading the prologue to “The House of Silk”:

As previously expounded on this blog, one of my philosophies of life is encompassed in Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s words “to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield”. Others include:

  • Scooby-DooWHAT WOULD SCOOBY DO? (legend on t-shirt given to me for a birthday)
  • Mind the gap (sound advice courtesy of Neil Gaiman’s “Neverwhere” – you’ll be even more cautious of the London Underground after reading this book)
  • If Stephen Fry doesn’t know about it is it worth knowing about?
  • Where there is no imagination there is no horror (wise words from “A Study in Scarlet”, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes tale)
  • Vengeance is a right, not a privilege to be earned
  • It’s not the years honey, it’s the mileage (Indiana Jones’ wise summation of life in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”)

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Robert Downey Jr reprises his role as the world’s most famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, and Jude Law returns as his formidable colleague, Dr. Watson, in “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows”.

Sherlock Holmes has always been the smartest man in the room…until now. There is a new criminal mastermind at large–Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris) – and not only is he Holmes’ intellectual equal, but his capacity for evil, coupled with a complete lack of conscience, may actually give him an advantage over the renowned detective. When the Crown Prince of Austria is found dead, the evidence, as construed by Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marsan), points to suicide. But Sherlock Holmes deduces that the prince has been the victim of murder – a murder that is only one piece of a larger and much more portentous puzzle, designed by one Professor Moriarty.

Mixing business with pleasure, Holmes tracks the clues to an underground gentlemen’s club, where he and his brother, Mycroft Holmes (Stephen Fry) are toasting Dr Watson on his last night of bachelorhood. It is there that Holmes encounters Sim (Noomi Rapace), a Gypsy fortune teller, who sees more than she is telling and whose unwitting involvement in the prince’s murder makes her the killer’s next target. Holmes barely manages to save her life and, in return, she reluctantly agrees to help him. The investigation becomes ever more dangerous as it leads Holmes, Watson and Sim across the continent, from England to France to Germany and finally to Switzerland. But the cunning Moriarty is always one step ahead as he spins a web of death and destruction – all part of a greater plan that, if he succeeds, will change the course of history.

Filmmaker Guy Ritchie returns to direct “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows”, the follow-up to the smash hit “Sherlock Holmes”. The sequel also reunites producers Joel Silver, Lionel Wigram, Susan Downey and Dan Lin. Bruce Berman serves as executive producer, with Steve Clark-Hall co-producing. Jared Harris (TV’s “Mad Men”, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”) joins the cast as the notorious Professor Moriarty. Also joining the cast, in her first English-speaking role, is Swedish actress Noomi Rapace, who gained international attention in the Swedish film “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, Stephen Fry (“Alice in Wonderland,” “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”) plays Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock’s older brother. Additional cast members returning from the first film include Eddie Marsan as Inspector Lestrade; Kelly Reilly as Watson’s bride, Mary Morstan; and Geraldine James as Holmes’s long-suffering landlady, Mrs. Hudson. “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” is written by Michele Mulroney & Kieran Mulroney. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson were created by the late Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and appear in stories and novels by him.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows – Movie Trailers – iTunes

The Speckled Band (original Strand Magazine illustration by Sidney Paget)

The Speckled Band (original Strand Magazine illustration by Sidney Paget)

At the age of 5 I read my first Sherlock Holmes story as penned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Nearly 4 decades later I am still reading them – dipping into the complete canon every couple of years as a refresher.

I was lucky in that the story I picked is widely acknowledged as one of the very best, indeed Conan Doyle himself frequently cited it as perhaps the best tale of the Great Detective that he wrote.

“The Speckled Band” was first published in Strand Magazine in February 1892 and was the eighth of the twelve stories later collected under the banner of “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”. Holmes and Watson are engaged by Helen Stoner to investigate the suspicious death of her sister Julia at the ancestral home at Stoke Moran. During course of the adventure the detective and his friend encounter the tyrannical Dr Grimesby Roylott and the horrifying instrument of death that is being directed at the surviving sister.

In less pages than the average writer devotes to a book chapter in the 21st century, Conan Doyle presents the reader with a classic locked room mystery, a grotesque villain, and heroes that can never be defeated.

Learn a tad more about “The Speckled Band” here

Neil Gaiman's "A Study in Emerald"

” A Study in Emerald” is a Sherlock Holmes/Cthulhu Mythos crossover written by Neil Gaiman. The story begins as a spin on the debut Sherlock Holmes tale “A Study in Scarlet” before spinning of into new and far darker directions than Arthur Conan Doyle could have foreseen. The main players are not named in the narrative but it’s clear that they are meant to be Sherlock Holmes, Dr Watson, Professor James Moriarty and Colonel Sebastian Moran (Moriaty’s chief of staff).

Gaiman pens a genius twist ending that probably only makes sense to Holmes aficionados but it’s a bloody clever one that I didn’t see coming and I’ve been reading the books for a good 30 years.

First published in the anthology Shadows Over Baker Street” and later in the author’s own short story collection Fragile Things, it is also available online for free at Neil Gaiman’s website here in a swish PDF edition that mirrors the layout of a Victorian periodical or newspaper.