Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Copy on a copy of a copy of an adaptation, part one.

Today's post brought with it my shortly-awaited copy of Elementary: The Ghost Line by Adam Christopher, my first venture into the non-televised fiction of our almost-hero Mr. Elementary.

It was a pleasantly light read, and in under a couple hours I found myself halfway through the book. Not that I couldn't put it down, of course, my Elementary viewing training has left me very disciplined for enduring the doings of Mr. Elementary, Joan Watson, Captain Gregson, and Detective Bell. And this book was about . . . Mr. Elementary, Joan Watson, Captain Gregson, and Detective Bell.

Oh, and New York City, too. NYC is like a fifth member of the team in this book. The first murder victim loves New York, Joan Watson loves New York, the plot is very city-based.

Elementary: The Ghost Line by Adam Christopher is a very good novel about Mr. Elementary, Joan Watson, Captain Gregson, and Detective Bell. The bar has not been set too high by the TV series, and the novel captures the voices of those characters quite well. It also explains some of the differences between Mr. Elementary and Sherlock Holmes quite well:

Mr. Elementary's detective skills come from "a gift he had been born with, like perfect pitch or an ear for languages." Joan Watson, however, knows that "the art of deduction, while partly an innate, wild talent, was also something that could be taught, learned." Yes, folks, some of us are just born logical, like Vulcans, and the rest of you poor suckers have to figure it out. Sigh. It's like a Creationist view of reasoning. But it sure suits Elementary.

Mr. Elementary is also "obtuse, rude, and childish, very often all at once."  Not something a Sherlockian would mistake for a description of Sherlock Holmes, but Mr. Elementary? Nailed it!

The first half of Elementary: The Ghost Line reads a bit like a Hardy Boys adventure, with mysterious tunnels and exploring by flashlight. It's quite readable, and the interplay between the characters isn't nearly so painfully uncomfortable as it is so often on TV. Oh, yes, and there is this one weird bit out of nowhere:

"The Blue Carbuncle is a gemstone, one that used to belong to the Earls of Morcar, passed down the female side from countess to countess. Fascinating history. In the late 1880s, it was stolen and later found in the crop of a Christmas goose."

Don't worry, that's not really a spoiler. It just comes out of nowhere, like I said, and seems to indicate that the events of "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" actually happened in Mr. Elementary's world. Which would totally discredit my favorite theory that Mr. E. is a crazed Irregular from the Cumberbatch Sherlock universe who escaped London and took his boss's name, and lends more credence toward a theory that Dr. Watson did not publish his accounts, or even write them, in Mr. Elementary's world, yet Sherlock Holmes did exist in Victorian times and was so unknown that a kid in the modern day could borrow the name for his detective business when he wasn't on heroin.

All in all the first half of Elementary: The Ghost Line has made me realize how important the clients were to the original Holmes tales, giving Conan Doyle a place to add colorful characters who weren't Holmes, Watson, Lestrade, and Gregson from the get-go. Watching Mr. Elementary, Joan Watson, Captain Gregson, and Inspector Bell wandering around mostly interacting with each other isn't as painful here as it is in the TV series, as Mr. Elementary is softened a bit, but it is still like the Hardy Boys -- you know that relationship isn't really going to go anywhere by the end of the tale.

We'll see what the second half of the novel brings.

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