Thursday, April 2, 2015

Silent Elementary, part two.

Perhaps the most telling moment in Elementary: The Ghost Line, by Adam Christopher, came as our protagonist, Mr. Elementary, solved the case.

"Watson!" he yells up at Joan Watson's bedroom door. He then proceeds to spend the better part of four pages yelling the solution to the mystery at her, only to find she never came home that night and was never in her bedroom.

This, we are supposed to believe, is the most observant man in the history of the world, Mr. Sherlock Holmes. Sure, it's not at the level of sleeping with a criminal mastermind on a regular basis without knowing she was a criminal mastermind -- that kind of observational "OOPS!" is a classic that will always be reserved for the original CBS show. But at least Elementary: The Ghost Line is properly following in its original's footsteps.

Meanwhile, Joan Watson, I am sad to say is busy playing damsel in distress after all that "hit the dummy on the top of his head" singlestick training proved worthless once again.

Having finished reading Elementary: The Ghost Line tonight, letting it substitute for the actual CBS procedural in its silent, somehow more palatable, way, I still hold to my feeling from reading the first half -- that it's a bit of a Hardy Boys adventure. Big bad men with no personalities doing bad things in a secret place. Series characters that you never have to worry about being threatened with deaths that you know are flat-out impossible. An exotic foreign element coming in to shift the whole view of things. Something pre-teens could read without fear of anything too graphic, in sex, violence, or language.

The Mr. Elementary/Joan Watson dynamic was not quite as on-target in the last half of the novel, as they spent most of it separated . . . well, I guess that was the dynamic of the first season. Mr. Elementary pulls in a substitute Watson, giving Alfredo more story-time than he ever had on the TV show. There's a moment or two when Alfredo even utters lines that of loyalty and dedication to mission that would make good old John H. Watson proud, which reminds you of how different Joan is from her last-namesake.

And Mr. Elementary saves the day with a bit of his usual Trival Pursuit knowledge, rather than anything a criminal expert might logically have in his repertoire, only this time it's a pretty far reach and an almost Doc Savage sort-of ending.

The subtitle "The Ghost Line" pretty much gives away key plot points of the book from the cover on, and you're waiting for a secret subway train to enter the picture from the moment you hear of its "Oh, that has to be it!" target. The only real surprise in this mystery is that weird Trivial Pursuit bit . . . well, and how long it drags out after you pretty much know who the villains are and what they intend to do, well before Mr. Elementary or Joan does.

But I will say this about the book, for you Sherlock fans out there:

Joan Watson gets a shock blanket.

And that ain't nothing.


  1. The only surprising thing to me about this mystery is that you read it! Wait, no perhaps that is not the most surprising thing to me, if you actually paid to purchase it, that would be the most surprising thing to me. :-)

    1. Since a pastiche of something good inevitably turns out to be something bad, I was genuinely curious if a pastiche of something bad would improve upon it. (Or it could just be that I've become Captain Ahab, forever stalking my great white whale.)

    2. Brad, if you think all pastiches must be bad, you've obviously never read any of Westron Wynde's books on Her short stories are cute and fun, but her Canon-compliant novels range from very good to magnificent. So much so that I warn you, DO NOT start any of them unless you have time to read the whole thing straight through. They are absolutely riveting, especially The Case of the Three Brothers, which may be the best pastiche I've ever read in 45 years as a Sherlockian.

      Andarta Woodland