Before the world was treated to the many ‘flavors’ presented by motion pictures, people had other brilliant ideas to entertain themselves. They exercised their imaginations through reading all sorts of books and related forms of written literature.
Detective fiction was one genre which had a strong following ever since its informal debut many years ago. Children and adults alike would stay up all night reading, captivated by the thrill and suspense associated with detective books. The excitement usually clings to a reader even if he or she isn’t actually reading the story; oftentimes people would not hesitate to pick up a detective book and finish it just to know how the story ends.
What gives detective books its flair? Simply put, they give the readers a good mental image of the actual scene and its events, while having them think at the same time. The unpredictability of good detective fiction has always been a quality that readers keep coming back for.
Stories which are classified as detective fiction usually start off with a description of a particular crime or mystery. As the reader turns the pages of the detective book he or she will be led to many bizarre or uncommon circumstances. This places more emphasis on the need to find a solution or and explanation to why the introduced event happened. The protagonist is usually a detective whose degree of experience can vary. A “foil”, or an accident-prone/less competent male or female is usually introduced as the detective’s assistant. Together, these key characters would decipher all sorts of clues, analyze situations, and piece them all together.
This process of collecting data takes up most of the plot. It is up to the creativity of the author to keep the reader hooked to the logical path of clues. A twist is usually added here and there to serve as distractions in a good number of ways. They can divert the reader’s attention away from critical details. Better yet, they can lead the reader to think that they have it all figured out, until another logical twist is introduced, much to their surprise. Through it all, the detective feels all sorts of emotions and tries all sorts of methods to figure things out. Deductive reasoning is one very common method used by protagonists in many detective books.
The solution of the crime usually serves as the ultimate climax of the detective fiction stories. Here, the foil’s more conventional level of intelligence is used by the author to explain the elaborate solution to the crime in words the reader would understand easier. The whole experience of reading a detective fiction story is truly breathtaking.
Edgar Allan Poe is credited to author the very first detective fiction story in 1841. Entitled “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, it starred C. Auguste Dupin, the very first detective. The fame of this short story eventually led to two ‘sequels’ which featured the same detective. One of these stories, “The Mystery or Marie Roget”, is intriguing for expressing Poe’s fictionalized point of view regarding a real-life crime, the murder of Mary Cecilia Rogers.
More importantly, that detective fiction story served as inspiration for many authors to create and innovate in the genre. One of these authors could have been a certain Scottish doctor and writer, whose innovative skills with the pen have earned him knighthood in the United Kingdom. In other words, one of these authors could have been Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, revolutionary author of the Sherlock Holmes stories.
Ask a person you know to tell you the first word he thinks about when you say ‘Sherlock Holmes’, and expect him to say ‘detective’, or something close to that. Sherlock Holmes stands out among the many various protagonists in the genre as being the most famous detective. His antics in every story that Conan Doyle wrote about him demonstrate his sheer brilliance in data gathering and analysis. This character, often pictured as a sophisticated gentleman wearing a deerstalker cap while smoking a pipe, is also depicted as a master of disguise. The depth of his character is seen in his well-elaborated emotions throughout every detective fiction story he is featured in. To him, life needed stronger thrills, and this led to his resistance to feel love, which he believed was a hindrance beneath his concerns.
Sherlock Holmes is known for the line, “Elementary, my dear Watson”. Many will be surprised to learn that this line was never directly uttered by Holmes. However, he does refer to less-insightful attempts in information analysis as “Elementary”, and he frequently refers to his confidante, Dr. John H. Watson, as “my dear Watson”.
John Hamish Watson was a doctor who served as Sherlock Holmes’ “biographer” in a majority of stories. He ‘narrated’ all but 4 of Conan Doyle’s pieces of detective fiction related to Sherlock Holmes. Dr. Watson serves as Holmes’ foil in the sense that he has a more conventional point of view over things. He shares the sentiments and opinions of an ordinary man. This state of mind usually clashes with Holmes’ more logical and analytical way of thinking. One educates, while the other maintains balance. This relation between the two diverse minds has been a symbolic situation expressed in many of Holmes’ stories.
Together, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson take on all sorts of crimes and mysteries to solve, meeting and dealing with many diverse characters along the way. Holmes is shown to demonstrate his superior skills in investigation over local officers of the law, including those working for Scotland Yard. Holmes also had an arch-enemy, Professor James Moriarty, who was featured in a good number of Conan Doyle’s works. Finally, there is Irene Adler, the one woman whom Holmes showed the most appreciation and attraction for.
There are nearly sixty pieces of literary work written by Conan Doyle which featured Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Of all these stories, it is “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” and the “The Red-Headed League” that are arguably the favorites of many ‘Sherlock Enthusiasts’.
The stories of Sherlock Holmes have undoubtedly lured many to the sophisticated genre of detective fiction. There are many competent writers who followed the approaches of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, with their own unique qualities related to the suspense and thrill brought on by detective fiction. Nowadays, early detective books are still good reading, but they are also collectors’ items too. Their significance during an earlier era and the quality of the stories make them highly prized by enthusiasts.
It is quite “Elementary” to expect that stories of Sherlock Holmes and other detective books would continue to be loved by children and adults alike.