Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Summer of Sherlock: Six Napoleons.

There is a marvelous thread of socializing that has run through the "Summer of Sherlock" stories so far, and "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons" adds a lovely new wrinkle to that trend.

By the summer of 1902, Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard and Sherlock Holmes had become friends. As much as current adaptations of Holmes like to paint him as socially awkward in a variety of ways, the Holmes of the original stories is quite socially adept -- he just chooses not to socialize when his career is in high gear. By 1902, he's mellowed quite a bit, thinking about retirement, and not only does Lestrade just now be wandering by for the occasional evening chat, those chats can be about such conversation filler as weather and what's in the newspapers.

Sure, Sherlock Holmes draws Lestrade out, when he's quiet and there's obviously something on his mind, but a Sherlock Holmes that allows idle, purposeless talk of the weather? That's not a fellow we've seen on TV recently. But then, they're a bit younger than this Holmes and may get there in time.

Like all of the best of Holmes's cases, "Six Napoleons" starts with an odd and trivial incident and builds to something much more sinister. Along the way, we get to hear a mention of "the dreadful business of the Abernetty family [which] was first brought to my notice by the depth to which the parsley had sunk into the butter on a hot day," another summertime case that went unwritten. (And a case celebrated with a mention in the movie The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes and other places, as well as many a Sherlockian's experimental attempt to sink parsley into butter.)

And there is London in this case. A drive through the many districts of the great city. Encounters with a few of its multi-national residents, as well as folk of a variety of occupations.

Holmes and Watson take take time for "a hasty luncheon at a restaurant" during the case, but even though it's hasty, Holmes is still taking a lunch break, which it is good to see him doing after he was going on about starving himself in "Mazarin Stone" like it was a fad diet for refining the senses. But then, "Mazarin Stone" was starving us for the lovely sort of detail that "Six Napoleons" lays out like a banquet feast, as well.

And what details they are! We find evidence that the Mafia is starting to move into London in the void left by the destruction of the Moriarty empire. Lestrade is not only a regular visitor at Baker Street, but the sort of friend who is welcome to stay for dinner and sleep on the couch. We learn what Holmes's favorite weapon is. And I just love that the victim of a crime invites Sherlock and the boys in for refreshments after they spare him the trauma of a burglary.

Sherlock Holmes, the showman, is never more in evidence than he is at the end of this case. And that is one facet of the great detective that truly makes him the Great Detective. He's not just about getting to the answers. When there's no time pressure involved, when he has the case well in hand, he'll slow things down a bit and give us a show, a little magic trick, before explaining it all away. And that's exactly what he does with the Napoleon busts.

By the end of this case, Lestrade is proud of Holmes. Scotland Yard is proud of Holmes. All of England is pretty proud of Holmes by this point in his career. He has his fans within the stories, almost the same as he does outside of the stories, so in that point, the last season of BBC Sherlock was not too far off the mark.

And for a fan, "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons" is a lovely treat.

Especially during a Summer of Sherlock.

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