Thursday, January 1, 2015

The "shoes" part worried me at first . . . a rare Sherlock Peoria review.

Sherlock Holmes really is an impossible character.

His own creator couldn't deal with him on a continuing basis. And lesser wordsmiths? Sherlock Holmes is like one of those mountains notorious for killing everyone who attempts to climb them. A character whose prime was in short stories, loose in a world that demands novels. A personality so deeply and richly drawn in his original cycle that most can just capture a shadow, a ghost of that original image.

Which is why I don't usually review pastiches. They can be such drudgery to read, like doing some routine calisthenics that are just motions you put yourself through for some purpose other than pleasure . . . exactly like that. Paying your dues to the cause of Sherlock, instead of that "fun" thing that originally attracted to you to the Game of Sherlockiana.

But, today, I'm reviewing a novel that revolves around Sherlock Holmes. Why?

Because it was fun.

Fans of the web video series, No Place Like Holmes, were in for a treat a couple of weeks ago when Ross K. Foad came out with Of Shoes and Sherlock: The Diary of Miss Christine Blake. Now, having been a dabbler in the web series and its spin-off The Mary Morstan Mysteries, I've admired the grand labors of love that Ross has been filling YouTube with, but, being a denizen of another era, have not quite figured out the place of such media in my entertainment diet. (It's kind of like sushi that way.) But books, I get. Books, I know how to process. And Of Shoes and Sherlock is definitely a book. You can get it made of paper and everything.

And it's a good book. Not for everyone, of course, because few things that go so far out on a limb are . . . but if you're the sort of cat that likes that sort of limb . . . lovely work. So what is Of Shoes and Sherlock?

It's, like the title says, the diary of Christine Blake, the housekeeper to a Sherlock Holmes who was magically transported to modern day England. She's quite the charming little airhead, strongly reminiscent of a younger, prettier Nigel Bruce in her printed page incarnation. Easily distracted, not a poseur of Watsonian prosery, Blake is her own woman despite having Sherlock Holmes to clean up after, and while she writes of Sherlock Holmes, her diary tells us much more of herself. And that's just fine.

There's a lot of fun to be had in Of Shoes and Sherlock, but it's the sort of book one can't come in and make demands of, plowing through it with a singular drive to be entertained. It's light comedy, best read in idle moment when one's mind is free of other encumbrances. It won't draw you into its world like a thriller, but will let you peep into Christine Blake's mind for a few smiles before you screw the lid back onto her roomy skull and go back about your business.

For a book plainly intended to be added fun for viewers of No Place Like Holmes, I've found it having the opposite effect: after enjoying the misadventures of Holmes's modern housekeeper so much, I'm going to go back and start watching NPLH from the start, end-to-end, to catch all of Miss Blake's outside-of-the-book adventures.

And because this is Sherlock Peoria, and I can't go a whole blog post without mentioning a certain hated network show, I must add this note: Had CBS hired Ross K. Foad to produce Elementary instead of that other fellow, I suspect I would be having a much better time of it, three seasons in. But I digress . . . .

Of Shoes and Sherlock: The Diary of Miss Christine Blake, by Ross K. Foad, is a happy addition to our Sherlockian treasure horde and something unique to add to any collection -- the first novel spun off a Sherlock Holmes web series. It's like picking up a flyer for a William Gillette performance when he was breaking new ground with Sherlock Holmes on stage. Getting in on the ground floor of history is hardly ever this much fun, though, so . . . bonus!

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