by Caren Crane
Recently, my family and I watched a short series produced by the BBC called, Murder Rooms - The Dark Beginnings Of Sherlock Holmes. I borrowed this set and several other British mystery series from a dear "uncle" of my best friend. It features a fictional Dr. Doyle - as in , Sir Arthur Conan - and his mentor, Dr. Joseph Bell. We all loved this series. It was dark, brooding, Victorian (!) and full of Holmesian goodness. Plus it's chock-full of British and Scottish accents. What's not to love?
It reminded me of the first mysteries I read and loved. As a kid, I saw a mystery that firmly shaped my future reading habits and my love affair with British mysteries. It was the film version of Agatha Christie's Murder On the Orient Express. I was 9 when it came out, so I'm not sure why my mother let me see it. It was either that taking us kids was the only way she got to see it, or no one was paying attention when someone else took me. In any case, I was hooked. When Death On the Nile came out when I was 13, I demanded to be taken. I was. By my 18-year-old oldest sister. I remember that she totally hacked me off by guessing who did it long before the end.
I was an Agatha Christie fan from the get-go, but it took a while for me to give Miss Marple a go, since I was a devotee of Hercule Poirot. I raced through piles of Christie's novels and then...I discovered Dr. A. Conan Doyle, better known as Sir Arthur. Ah, these were darker tales, rife with human foibles and plenty of betrayal. The Hound Of the Baskervilles haunted me. Literally. I had nightmares about that one. For some reason, Doyle's eerie tales and Holmes's infallible logic won me over even harder than dear Agatha and Poirot.
I think the reason I adore these keenly-plotted mysteries is because I have no ability to do it myself. I can apply logic as well as the next person and maybe better than some. But plotting logically?? Impossible! (It's better if you give it a French accent like Hercule: am-pos-SI-bluh!)
I would love, more than anything, to write the sort of intricate, oh-so-logical stories that people like, oh...KATE CARLISLE write. Alas, the logical plotting fairy never stops by. I am CLUELESS (much like the adorable Cher in the movie, only without the good legs and general cuteness). *le sigh* That is the real reason I got so hacked off at my oldest (and most beloved!) sister. She could obviously plot mysteries, but she doesn't write. She's an artist in many media. Another talent I don't possess. Pfffft!
I suppose I will have to content myself watching Sherlock Holmes when he hits the big screen this season. And it stars one of my favorite odd-ducks ever: Robert Downey, Jr.! And his sidekick, Watson, is none other than the luscious Jude Law! Even if it's completely silly, it should be imminently watchable from a hunk perspective. Wa-ha!
What about you? Do British mysteries hold you spellbound? Does the new Sherlock make you itch to see it? And who is your favorite novel detective of all time? Holmes and I would love to know!