Friday, June 20, 2014

Summer of Sherlock: The Greek Interpreter

Sooooo . . . . "The Greek Interpreter."

Summer evenings, desultory conversation, hazardous international travel, there's a good feeling of the season in this case occurring in 1888. But the subject one can't steer away from in "The Greek Interpreter" isn't the weather or the investigation. It's the first appearance of good old brother Mycroft.

And as I read "Greek Interpreter" this time, I found myself completely distracted by another of Holmes's cases, scratching at the back of my mind: "The Dying Detective."

It has nothing to do with "Greek Interpreter," right? The two cases have no similarities at all. But there is a "dog in the night-time" aspect to "Dying Detective," to use a reference to a third case Sherlockians tend to know all too well. And that silent dog in the night?

Mycroft Holmes.

In 1903, when "The Dying Detective" takes place, Dr. Watson is convinced that Sherlock Holmes is dying -- that's the whole point of the story. And who does Watson not think to call, not even mention as an interested party?

Sherlock's brother Mycroft.

Yes, yes, the siblings are distant and not in each other's everyday lives, but when times get tough, as in the Moriarty business, or after, when things need done during a different time of faked mortality, Mycroft is there. He's family. And he lives in the same town. And Dr. Watson is a caring sort of guy, the kind who would definitely think to tell your brother if you were dying, whether you said so or not.

Now, in 1903, Mycroft Holmes would have been roughly 56 years old. And he's seriously obese. Really, his hands are so fat that Watson compares them to the flippers of a seal -- even in this age of obesity, when have you ever seen that? And when we meet him in is early forties, in "The Greek Interpreter," he's smoking, like everybody else in those days.

Given the average male lifespan of 46.3 at the turn of the century just passed, things are just not looking good for Mycroft's survival to 1903, when Watson fails to mention him in "The Dying Detective."

In January of 1901, Queen Victoria died. In July of 1902, Arthur Balfour took over the role of prime minister from his uncle, Lord Salisbury. The government was changing, and who "was" the British government? Who might have felt some measure of pride and his job being done when the first British submarine launched in October 1901?

Mycroft Holmes. And his "dog in the night-time" non-mention in "The Dying Detective" would seem to indicate his job and life was over by that time.

My apologies for getting so distracted from "The Greek Interpreter" today, but it is Mycroft after all. And suddenly realizing that he's gone while teading the story of his first appearance is very distracting.


  1. One comment in one book has Mycroft Holmes going down with the Titanic - which does not fit your theory - but is more poignant than him flopping over from a bad heart or diabetes! I'll stick with that one.

  2. To be fair, 'average lifespan' included a high infant mortality rate. Once you made it past puberty, you had a good chance of living into your 70's. Mycroft could still have keeled over, it's hard to say for sure; he *did* share Sherlock's genes, which tend toward an 'iron constitution', so he could have been like one of those 100-year-old chain smokers.

    Maybe Watson called Mycroft, who figured out Sherlock was faking, and so declined to visit, with an 'I'm busy, he'll be fine' excuse (understanding that little bro has his reasons). Watson, ever the cheering squad, declined to mention Mycroft's appalling behavior. Yep, that's now my head canon.

    Korina, running back to Lurker Land...

    PS Discovered you on IHOSE and have been following ever since. :-)