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Monday Murder and Its Discontents

What I've Finished Reading

I had a terrific time reading Nicholas Meyer's The Seven Per Cent Solution, in which John H. Watson, M.D. tells the true story of what happened to Holmes on the Continent that one time when everyone pretended he was dead. Alarmed by Holmes' increasingly erratic behavior and persecution of a harmless math tutor, Watson, Mary, and Mycroft lay a false trail in order to lure Holmes to Vienna so that Sigmund Freud can cure him of cocaine addiction.

"He will see through your scheme," she protested automatically. "No one knows so much about clues as does he."

"Very likely," I responded, "but no one knows so much about Holmes as do I."
Holmes and Freud hit it off, maybe a little too well, once the withdrawal symptoms subside (Holmes' admiration for Freud has a bit of a strange flavor because Freud has gone out of fashion since the mid-twentieth century and Sherlock Holmes hasn't). Holmes neatly rescues one of Freud's patients from having the crimes against her misdiagnosed as sexual neurosis or whatever Freud was going to say - knowledge of American religious minorities coming in handy once again. Freud challenges a villainous anti-Semite to a tennis match. There is a breakneck train chase. Everything is very silly and breathless in a pleasantly ACD-resonant way.

I didn't particularly like the big scoop of Tragic Backstory Myers dropped on at the last minute, because I don't think Holmes needs a tragic backstory to have turned out the way he did, and I don't agree with Freud that no one ever develops a drug habit out of boredom. But I also have no trouble believing that Holmes could and would lie under hypnosis if it suited him, so no harm done.

What I'm Reading Now

The Great Agatha Christie Publication Order Mega-Read got stalled for a while by my inability to find a copy of The Seven Dials Mystery - which I'd read only a few months ago, but which fell apart in my hands & had to be discarded. Eventually, I gave up and decided to jump to the next book in sequence, The Mysterious Mr. Quin. It's a novel in stories or a collection of linked short stories about a "fussy, old-maidish" man called Mr. Satterthwaite whose encounters with the mysterious Mr. Harley Quin nudge him into an unintentional but not totally unwilling career as Miss Marple-esque amateur detective. Mr. Quin is a knowing stranger of no fixed address who keeps turning up every time Mr. Satterthwaite tries to take a vacation or attend a party. Is "Harley Quin" his real name? Does he have a "real name" in the first place? The mysteries vary, but the setup, so far, is always the same: Mr. Satterthwaite tries to do something innocuous with friends, a mystery presents itself (dark secret unspoken, lost jewel, mysterious disappearance), Mr. Quin shows up and goads everyone into talking about it until Mr. Satterthwaite arrives at the truth. It's enjoyable easy reading so far, with typical low-key Christie humor and an atypical hint of magic.

What I Plan to Read Next

Since I've already broken my promise not to buy any new books until March (I went to a book fair, mistakes were made) I am going to go ahead and order Seven Dials and Giant's Bread, the first of Christie's non-murder non-mysteries published under the name Mary Westmacott.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 13th, 2017 02:41 pm (UTC)
Freud challenges a villainous anti-Semite to a tennis match.

I love it. It's perfectly in keeping with the Sherlock Holmes aesthetic in its bizarre zaniness.

Going to a book fair after swearing not to buy new books is totally tempting fate. Especially when it's one of those library fairs where the books are like seventy-five cents AND the money goes to a good cause; you practically have to buy one, it's almost a moral obligation! What did you end up getting at the fair?
Feb. 13th, 2017 03:04 pm (UTC)
IT WAS FOR WORK. :( But even though I'm not happy about my broken promise, I'm happy with the books I bought: Know the Mother by Desiree Cooper, a truly great short story collection, Bob Stevenson by Richard Wiley, which I enjoyed in spite of/along with mixed feelings, several books of poetry for my "read more contemporary poetry" resolution, a funny book called How To Live in Detroit Without Being a Jackass (a topic close to my heart).

I thought Nicholas Meyer did a good job with creating new wackiness in the ACD tradition, and also with recalling and reinforcing my immense fondness for Watson and Holmes. I'm sure I could find plenty to quibble with if I thought it out for a while, but it was a lot of fun and I recommend it.
Feb. 13th, 2017 03:18 pm (UTC)
I would say Tragic Backstory is the blight of our time((!) or not;p) but 'The Seven Per Cent Solution' is quite old.

I'm intrigued to hear what a non-mystery Christie is like.
Feb. 13th, 2017 09:01 pm (UTC)
It came out in 1974, which I'd guess (not an educated guess) to be well within at least the early period of the current Era of Tragic Backstories.

I'm really curious about Christie's non-mysteries, too! I don't know what to expect.
Feb. 14th, 2017 04:58 pm (UTC)
Maybe she'll sneak in a mystery?
Feb. 13th, 2017 06:35 pm (UTC)
(I went to a book fair, mistakes were made)

You know, I find it very hard to feel sorry for you. *sighs over the thought of a book fair*

I'm glad your Holmes sequel/pastiche/whatever was good! (Tragic backstories, though: must we? /o\)
Feb. 13th, 2017 09:16 pm (UTC)

It was a good pastiche. And really I don't think I object to tragic backstories in general - at least, there are plenty of tragic backstories that I might like. But I bristle at the idea that Sherlock Holmes' personality and "lifelong pursuit of justice" are problems that have to be solved by tracing them to a single traumatic event. Holmes is all right! If he wants to spend all his time solving bizarre crimes and shooting bullets into his own wall, that is his business. >:(
Feb. 14th, 2017 08:32 am (UTC)
Well, his and Watson's and Mrs Hudson's, to be fair, but I think they're okay with it really!

And I think it's fine when people come with tragic backstories, it's the people who other people suddenly feel the need to saddle with tragic backstories that's so annoying. Pro-fanfic people, honestly, we've noticed your habits!
Feb. 13th, 2017 08:56 pm (UTC)
whose encounters with the mysterious Mr. Harley Quin

If I ever get around to reading this book, I will be unable to picture this character as anything other than a cross-dressed Harley Quinn from Batman (the Joker's girlfriend, this one).
Feb. 13th, 2017 09:25 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you linked to a DCAU picture and not to the recent Suicide Squad movie, which is terrible and makes no sense (though Margot Robbie was the best thing about it by about six miles, despite the writers having no idea what to do with her character OR ANY OTHER CHARACTER). But yes, that is a risk. I got used to it after a while - it helps that he goes by Mr. Quin rather than Harley, and does not act like the Batverse Harley Quinn at all.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )


blase ev

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