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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Conan Doyle in Canada

When it comes to television shows, I have a high degree of sales resistance. At this writing I’ve only seen one episode of “Elementary,” the pilot. I only watch “Sherlock” so that I know what fellow Sherlockians are talking about. I’m just not a TV guy.

Last week, however, I watched two early episodes of the long-running Canadian series, “The Murdoch Mysteries.” Both of them team up Detective William Murdoch, of 1890s Ontario, with the visiting Arthur Conan Doyle. The results are, as Nero Wolfe would say, “satisfactory.”

“Elementary, My Dear Murdoch,” the fourth episode of the first season, involves a medium telling where to find a murder victim’s body. Conan Doyle, in this show as in real life, is a believer in spiritualism. The young official detective – a practicing Catholic – struggles to reconcile his faith with his desire to get a message from his fiancé who died a year earlier.

Conan Doyle is well played as the author who still thinks he is well rid of Holmes (although intrigued by Inspector Brackenreid’s tale of a hound from hell). The actor looks the part, although not tall enough. The murder motive of this episode is a little weak, however.

When ACD makes a return appearance in the ninth episode, “Belly Speaker,” the plot involving a seemingly mad ventriloquist is convoluted but quite clever. The icing on the cake, however, is the real reason the British author has returned to Toronto – a reason that, once Murdoch ferrets it out, affords the detective an opportunity to give his favorite writer some good advice.

The creator of Sherlock Holmes really did visit Canada and loved it, as Canadian Sherlockian (or are they Holmesians?) are well aware. Christopher Redmond wrote about his 1894 visit to Toronto in Welcome to America, Mr. Sherlock Holmes. 

All in all, watching these two episodes made for an entertaining evening. I may watch more, and I will certainly look for the Murdoch novels by Maureen Jennings. 


  1. I've enjoyed the Murdoch Mysteries, once I got over the CSI camera shots in Victorian Canada.

    Without spoiling it, Murdoch's Catholicism actually plays a vital role in a later episode. Very surprising and appropriate.

    I've also enjoyed the Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries, set in 1928 Australia. It ran for three seasons. They did an especially good job on the special effects, digitizing parts of Melbourne to make it look as it did.

  2. Dan, you must watch the two episodes that have Andrew Gower guest starring as Sherlock Holmes/Dennis Kingsley (Season 6 Episode 4 "A Study in Sherlock" and Season 7 Episode 4 "Return of Sherlock Holmes"). You will enjoy these two episode immensely. I absolutely enjoy the chemistry the cast of "The Murdoch Mysteries" has. Each year I purchase the newest DVD set, and it is my go to watch during those long waits for the next BBC "Sherlock" season.