‘Sherlock: The Casebook’ book review

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Guy Adams’ reference work on Sherlock is somewhat of a hybrid beast; part in-universe story guide and part behind the scenes production chronicle.

The book provides extensive coverage for each of the six episodes in the form of Dr. John Watson’s scrapbook. Through a jumble of documentation, including pictures, newspaper clippings, memos, maps and floor plans, the good Doctor leads us through the evidence and explains the deductions which led to each of the adventures conclusions.

The scrapbook pages are also amusingly annotated in character by Watson and Sherlock, in post-it note form. Sherlock breaks in to correct, disagree, abuse and deride the both the police and his friend’s failure to see the obvious. Occasionally, the two descend into some highly amusing bickering, which also gives an insight to the characters’ fractious domestic arrangements.

Following each of the episode pages, we are treated to features that detail the references back to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original tales, as well as name checking the off-screen adventures are drawn upon too.

On the non-fiction front, creators Stephen Moffat and Mark Gatiss discuss their desire to stay close to the spirit of the original stories. They credit where ideas have originated, such as Sherlock’s harsh criticism of Watson’s salacious write-ups which these days take the form of blog entries.

The book also takes a look at the show’s overnight success and its original gestation as an hourly show, as well as featuring short interviews with some of the main cast,  with Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman and Andrew Scott (Moriarty) discussing their characters.

Looking at the wider Holmes world, it features a short biography of Doyle and his famously troubled relationship with Holmes, his most famous creation, It also considers other interpretations of the stories over the years. Some have been an inspiration to this version, and one such case is that of the thin personification of Mycroft, Sherlock’s brother, who owes his origins and secret service profession to the Billy Wilder film ‘The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes’ rather than anything in print.

Despite its broad coverage, there do appear to be a few glaring omissions. We would have expected to hear from the third Sherlock scribe, Stephen Thompson, especially in light of his adaptation of ‘The Final Problem’ which currently has us all on tenterhooks. Also, there is scant mention of the minor players such as Lestrade (Rupert Graves), Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey) and Mrs Hudson (Una Stubbs), all of whom surely deserved at least a short profile piece.

Running to 160 pages, and with the feel of an in-depth annual, there is something akin to the Brilliant Book of Doctor Who volumes here. We suppose the target audience is expected to be the more avid fan or card-carrying ‘Cumberbitch’, as well as the younger reader who will be drawn in by the scrapbook style. Regardless, this is clearly a contender for the Christmas present market, with plenty here to spark the interest of the casual viewer, and enough to whet the appetite of those who have never enjoyed the original stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. That can never be a bad thing.

Published on Thursday 25 October 2012 by BBC Books.

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