Saturday, November 2, 2013

Sherlock Holmes in Japan

This has been long overdue – a thousand apologies to Vasudev Murthy, the lovely author of “Sherlock Holmes in Japan”, which is written under the pseudonym of Akira Yamashita. And a thousand more, because I know I promised a formal review – but I just couldn’t come up with it.

Let me present the beautiful cover first (though, I suppose, most would be familiar with the image by now):

Now, of course, there is no dearth of Sherlock Holmes pastiches in the world. The sheer quantum of Holmesian literature, in fact, is mild boggling – especially when you consider how little of the canon there is. And, therein, lies the charm of Sherlock Holmes.

And here comes another problem – I can’t write a “proper” review without giving out spoilers, and I hate giving out spoilers because it ruins the charm for those who are about to read a book. So, how do I go about writing this review? Generic gushing without saying anything is pretty useless and solves no purpose whatsoever – “verbal diarrhoea”, as a friend of mine would call it.

Tricky business. I could, however, try to give a sort of introduction to the book, why I liked it, my favourite quote and keep the major plot elements out of the picture.

Vasudev’s book pertains to the Missing Years (you do know why I’m using capitalised terms here, yes?) – with the one major advantage – post-Reichenbach, Sherlock Holmes does not face evil by himself this time – he has his Watson. Good old Professor Moriarty is as sinister as ever, locked in an intellectual duel (with the fate of the world hanging in the balance) with the Holmes brothers (well, Mycroft’s sort of there in the background – but as I keep saying, I adore Mycroft, and have a tendency to latch on to any mention of him) – and Sherlock Holmes is the only man who can foil his devious intent. Holmes and Watson travel through many exotic places – including but not limited to India, Cambodia and finally make their way to Japan, where the grand showdown happens. Sherlock bedazzles the reader.

Murder and mayhem, of course, follow them around like loyal dogs. There is a scene where Watson thinks he is dreaming of murder, when it actually takes place under his nose. (Sorry, any more details would be spoilers.)

The best feature? The entire book is incandescent with humour. Vasudev has cleverly used Holmes and Watson caricatures. Watson is often bumbling – and infinitely adorable. Holmes is hyperbolically clever, cryptic and cantankerous at times – and it is done so well that you will fall off your chair laughing and people in the vicinity will shoot you OMG-what’s-wrong-with-her-now looks.

Holmes and Watson meet some eminent people on their way, and these meetings are quite fun.

Also, apparently, Vasudev has changed something that conflicted in history and the canon – he did tell me, but I really cannot recall – technical things concerning history usually fly over my head. Now, I know there are some very erudite Sherlockians out there who take their history very, very seriously and who take offence at anything that deviates from actual facts or the actual canon – I salute you guys, and have a lot of respect for your knowledge – but I can’t really empathise.

A book is meant to be fun. We love Sherlock Holmes, and we want to see him in action. We want a gripping story-line which showcases Sherlock’s heroism (for he is our hero) and is fun to read, too. A good book (in my humble opinion) should leave you happy. (Yes, yes, I know most of serious, scholarly literature leaves you in dire need of Prozac and generates nightmares for weeks.)

And “Sherlock Holmes in Japan” does leave you happy. It is a complete story – has all the “happy” elements – action, adventure, cleverness, exotic locations, heroism, humour, mayhem, murder – and a very satisfying ending (which, I think, is very important – all’s well that ends well and all that jazz) – murder mysteries solved, mega-scale crisis averted, Sherlock Holmes hailed as the hero with his best friend by his side (it just doesn’t feel right without Dr. Watson, does it?) – what more can you possibly want?

Go, buy the book and see for yourselves. You will be well entertained, and as you turn the last page, you will smile.

My favourite quote from the book (Context: Holmes is showing off his deductive skills to a Japanese gentleman, and then invites the said gentleman to try deduction on himself, and the Japanese man retorts with this):

“ have an older sibling who you admire greatly and your energy springs from a desire to keep pace with him...”

Sherlock Holmes is gobsmacked. To find out more, read the book!

Oh, yes, before I forget - the inimitable Ross K Foad has agreed to review this book - so that should (hopefully) be available sometime soon...and that'd be a proper one!

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