For some strange reason, I enjoy those guides to the world of Sherlock Holmes that may not necessarily say anything new, but say it well. These books are helpful for neophytes, and fun for veteran Sherlockians.
Such is The Bedside, Bathtub & Armchair Companion to Sherlock Holmes by Dick Riley and Pam McAllister.
Although the book was published in 1999, I only recently picked up a copy. Knowing that the authors edited a similarly titled Agatha Christie book 20 years earlier, I frankly came to the volume with low expectations. Bedside far exceeded them.
Just about every familiar topic is given a brief chapter – Arthur Conan Doyle, Holmes’s London (with crime map), actors who have played Sherlock Holmes, cocaine, Moriarty, Watson, parodies and pastiches, canines in the Canon, etc.
But I particularly liked the essays on the British Empire, the orders of nobility (always a puzzler to most of us Yanks), and the value of money in the Canonical period – from pence to pounds.
Each of the 60 adventures gets a capsule treatment, which makes up a good portion of the book. The summary is called “Principle Predicament,” but the capsule consists of more than that. It also includes a notable feature, sometimes a quotable quote, and occasionally a disquisition on “oddities and discrepancies.”
My favorite quotable quote is one that had not previously caught my attention. In “The Adventure of Golden Pince-Nez,” Holmes asks, “What did you do, Hopkins, after you had made certain that you had made certain of nothing?”
I also like the authors’ approach to “The Adventure of the Empty House.” They just don’t bother with the oddities and discrepancies: “Though astute readers can poke numerous holes in this adventure, no one really cares about the inconsistencies for, after all, Holmes has returned.”
Amen to that!