I had started out to write on a fictional character I secretly wish was real and I unabashedly confess that not only do I hope that Sherlock Holmes existed but I often imagine and convince myself of the fact that he did, in fact, walk the streets of Victorian London with Dr Watson.
No other character exhibits such charisma, allure, presence of mind and incredible genius as Holmes, making him the most enduring and indelible character of the detective genre and the most quintessentially British. Today, his statue stands in Baker Street, close to 221 B, in all its glory, with an Inverness Cape, a deerstalker and a pipe.
“You should be more into Harry Potter and Percy Jackson”, I was informed. However, I have been passionate about Sherlock Holmes since I was ten and got my hands on the three inch thick ‘ The Complete Illustrated Sherlock Holmes’ and was awestruck by the simplicity, the reality and the ingenuity of Sir Doyle’s creation. Holmes seemed more alive to me than any other character had been, so authentic that I could smell his pipe tobacco, feel the laser like focus of his eyes, the intensity of his scrutiny and hear the notes of the Stradivarius floating off of the yellowed pages.
Sir Doyle’s writing resonated with me then and it does so today as well. Despite being over a century old, the cases and Holmes himself are timeless and beguiling. With his unfaltering power of observation, taste for adventure and startling brilliance, Holmes stood out to me as a uniquely interesting and dynamic character from the very first page of ‘A Study In Scarlet’ and kept me reading on.
Alone, Sir Doyle’s stories would have been simply clever but the fascinating character of Holmes elevates them to the legendary as he propels the plot through mystery and intrigue before revealing the elementary and evident solution with a flourish and a modest shrug. His impressive reputation is, of course, based upon his astonishing and uncanny ability to solve perplexing crimes with ease. Obscure clues are clear to him as his vast catalogue of knowledge discerns hidden connections, giving him the envious ability to solve impossible cases and making him invaluable and irreplaceable to the Scotland Yard.
Despite or perhaps because of his unorthodox, seemingly useless tactics, the infamous Baker Street irregulars, an assortment of disguises and the occasional burglary, Holmes’ track record is higher than the police today.
Holmes is, by no means, perfect, often struggling to accept defeat, although these weaknesses make him seem more human. Defeating his nemesis Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls is both, poignant and tense, precisely because Holmes appears so human and the challenges so formidable that the reader doesn’t expect him to emerge victorious or even alive.
He is able to balance his machine like brilliance and precision preferring a sensitive, understanding approach over heavy handed treatment when dealing with the vulnerable. Also, he is not at all motivated by the prospect of material rewards and recognition but by the challenge a case poses and the opportunity to help his distressed clients- an admirable and admittedly uncommon ethos.
I believe Holmes is more valuable than ever in a world of increasingly complex and challenging crime. After all, who wouldn’t want a consulting detective around, especially one of Holmes’ caliber? As such, if any character were to walk out of a book and onto the streets, I sincerely hope that the footfalls are of Sherlock Holmes.