Saturday, April 23, 2011
Review: The Crimes of Dr. Watson: An Interactive Sherlock Holmes Mystery. 4 / 5 stars.
The Crimes of Dr. Watson: An Interactive Sherlock Holmes Mystery. By Duane Swierczynski. Hardcover $9.98. ISBN-10: 1594741999.
“Could you, dear reader, help Watson?
Can you solve a century-old mystery?
Can you play Sherlock Holmes?” (Swierczynski, p.12)
I’m a big fan of interactive fiction - everything from ‘Choose your own Adventure’ books to ‘The 39 Clues.’ These days, I prefer the analog variety and the best of the analog by far is the interactive mystery series from Quirk Books.
The book starts off in present day, where the author, narrating as a journalist, is presented with an old letter by Doctor Watson to the mysterious Colonel Harold Kelsh Resmo (ring any bells?!). Convinced the letter is a forgery, he investigates further and discovers that Watson is writing the letter from a prison cell, having been framed for murder. Because Sherlock Holmes is missing and presumed dead, Watson is unable to solve the mystery on his own. He writes an account of what has happened from just before Holmes disappeared and submits evidence that Resmo can use to solve the crime. The evidence is a wonderful collection of Victoriana, including: a manuscript page torn into several pieces, a postcard with a cryptic message, a newspaper article, a catalogue of medicines and marital aids, a strange ghostly image, a telegram and a train schedule.
Swierczynski has Conan Doyle’s literary style down pat, yet he succeeds in making this somewhat dense language clear for readers who aren’t used to late 19th century narratives. He does a nice job of weaving in references to other Sherlock Holmes’ stories and of incorporating real and fictional elements seamlessly.
The book itself is beautifully produced using high quality materials. Both the letter itself and the evidence come across as authentic ephemera, while the linocut illustrations throughout convey the dark, edgy feel of Victorian London wonderfully.
This book is a lot of fun, and while clear and to the point, is not an easy mystery to solve. As Watson writes in his letter, Holmes would categorize this as a “three pipe problem.” This is probably why upon reading the resolution, nicely folded away at the back of the book, the reader is eminently satisfied.