November 11, 2021

#08-152: Sherlock Holmes

Holmes (r) and Watson

Note: Few fictional characters have been mistaken for real people, but Arthur Conan Doyle's famous "consulting detective" has just that distinction. Let's meet him and his sidekick, Dr. John Watson.

Get Ready: What steps would you follow to solve a mystery?

Someone's missing? You've misplaced your boss's money? Received five orange seeds in the mail without explanation?

This sounds like a case for... Sherlock Holmes!

In Sherlock Holmes, the author Arthur Conan Doyle has created a "consulting detective" so vivid that many have mistaken him for a real person! The first Holmes story appeared in 1887; by 1927, Doyle had written four novels and 56 short stories.

Holmes uses highly scientific methods to untie the knottiest of problems--for a fee. Sometimes his powers of observation, logical deduction, and forensic science appear almost mystical, especially to his friend, biographer, and sometimes roommate Dr. John Watson.

With Watson, Holmes lives upstairs from his landlady, Mrs. Hudson, at 221B Baker Street, London. Watson writes down most of the stories, but Holmes claims that actual events were never nearly as sensational as Watson makes them out to be. Still, Watson is his only real friend. The relationship reveals to Watson that Holmes possesses "a great heart as well as… a great brain."

Holmes usually works for private clients, but he sometimes consults with Scotland Yard, and has been hired by high government officials in and out of England (including kings, and even the Vatican!) Sherlock admits that his brother, Mycroft, is the smarter of the two, but Mycroft is not interested in investigation.

In 1893, wishing to turn his attention to other projects, Doyle "killed off" Holmes in a struggle with his archnemesis, Professor James Moriarty. However, after 20,000 people cancelled their subscription to The Strand, the magazine in which the stories had been published, Doyle was compelled to find an ingenious way to bring him back.

Holmes had "died" after a scuffle and fall near a waterfall; but as it turned out, he had faked his death to fool his enemies. (No body had ever been recovered.) This period is now known among fans (usually called "Holmesians" in the U.K. and "Sherlockians" in the U.S.) as "the Great Hiatus."

Sherlock Holmes was not the first fictional detective, but is certainly the best known. Stage, television, film, and print appearances--aside from those by Doyle--number in the tens of thousands, and no one who writes crime fiction today can ignore the character or the principles he practiced, including this one:

"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."


Read more:

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. archnemesis
  2. compelled
  3. consults
  4. deduction
  5. forensic
  6. hiatus
  7. ingenious
  8. knottiest
  9. sensational
  10. vivid

  1. a break; an interruption
  2. clever; brilliant
  3. exaggerated for dramatic effect
  4. for use in solving crimes
  5. forced
  6. gives advice
  7. someone's greatest enemy
  8. lively; realistic
  9. most difficult
  10. working from facts to a conclusion

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for November 11, 2021

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. g; 2. e; 3. f; 4. j; 5. d; 6. a; 7. b; 8. i; 9. c; 10. h