Sherlock in Loveby Sena Jeter Naslund
How did Sherlock Homes come into possession of a true Stardivarius? Who was the one true love of the great detective's life? And what shattering disappointment left the detective with feelings of overwhelming melancholy? As Holme's great friend, Dr. Watson, sets out to answer these questions and recount the thrilling "lost" adventure of Holmes's
How did Sherlock Homes come into possession of a true Stardivarius? Who was the one true love of the great detective's life? And what shattering disappointment left the detective with feelings of overwhelming melancholy? As Holme's great friend, Dr. Watson, sets out to answer these questions and recount the thrilling "lost" adventure of Holmes's attempt to rescue the love of his life from a mad King Ludwig of Bavaria, his own life is threatened by a figure in a familiar Inverness coat and deerstalker cap.
In this extraordinary novel, Sena Jeter Naslund, author of the critically acclaimed national bestseller Ahab's Wife, brilliantly reweaves the colorfully cryptic, fog-enshrouded world of Sherlock in Love is at once a rewarding entertainment and a remarkable homage to the greatest sleuth in literature.
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Chapter One> The Present
Holmes was dead: to begin with. And had been dead for well onto two years. And who was I without Holmes? He had been my dearest friend. He had served as that fixed point around which my life as a storyteller revolved.
Sometimes, on dreary December days such as this one, when the fog was so thick over London one could scarcely tell whether it was woman or man who hurried by in the street, I would think that I had seen him. When Holmes seemed to brush by me in the gloom, I could not refrain from hastening my aged legs and ignoring my ancient wound from Afghanistan in order to overtake the figure. Then in the cone of light falling from some street lamp, the veils of obscuring mist would be turned back and there would stand, perhaps, some sharp-nosed woman, dressed in the wretched modern coat and boots, loaded with Christmas packages.
The idea of Holmes had teased my vision so much that I had determined to take up my pen, to exorcise the ghost by writing about him again. Not an isolated adventure, but a definitive biography. On the first day of winter, December 21, 1922 advertisement appeared in the Times:
I hoped that I yet possessed a head clear enough for the task. Fogged by grief and loneliness (the last Mrs. Watson had died years before Holmes), my memory had become uncertain. Even the various Adventures that I had penned were a whirl of places and people, many long since deceased.
Notwishing to spend the day alone at Baker Street, waiting for replies and fidgeting, I had stayed in the British Museum till nightfall. As I hurried home, a terrible wind blew the fog about and made my arms seem thin and unprotected inside my greatcoat. The winter wind howled as though it were alone and weary of this world.
When a large dog sauntered out of a doorway, I started, envisioning that ghastly hound who had haunted the last of the Baskervilles until Holmes and I had ended its career on just such a gloomy night as this. But perceiving on second sight that this beast was of a more kindly disposition, I spoke and tried to snap my fingers through my thick leather gloves. "Here, fellow," I said. His breath and mine caused even denser balloons of mist to surround our heads. A door opened and the face of a man topped with violent red hair protruded. "You wouldn't be trying to pinch me dog, would you?" he said.
Embarrassed, I hurried on against the fierce wind toward the old Baker Street apartment. I would read again of the grand old pursuits, and I was eager for the warmth of our familiar lodgings. Soon after the last Mrs. Watson died, Holmes had left off beekeeping down in Sussex and had invited me to return with him to Baker Street.
A light that I had left on for myself shone through one of the three slender and arched windows. And there, on the other side of the drawn shade, wearing his Inverness and deerstalker, passed the shadow of Sherlock Holmes.
"Holmes!" I shouted, "Holmes!" more glad-hearted than terrified, for there, it seemed, he stood, silhouetted in the window above me. Once before I had thought him dead, in the falls of Reichenbach, and he had returned. The silhouette stooped and lifted-the violin! As he tucked it under his chin, I charged the door.
I thrust first one key, the wrong one, and then another into the lock. I threw open the door and dashed as though winged through the hall and up the stairs. "Holmes," I cried, and felt as nimble as I had rushing the enemy line in Afghanistan, though I could hear my own hoarse breath like a kind of croaking.
As I ran, the frail voice of Mrs. Hudson, blind now and confined to a wheelchair, called, "It's he!" Naturally, I supposed it was the great detective to whom she referred. "It's he!" The words spurred me on. I flung myself through the door, knowing I would now see Holmes standing in the lamplight. But alas, the lamp burned in solitude. There was no sign of Holmes. The closed violin case lay as usual on the table beside the lamp.
I confess that I sank into one of the armchairs beside the fireplace and wept. My dizzy ascent thundered in my head.
I Mary, our housemaid, stood in the door and said, "Mrs. 'Udson's quite 'urt, begging your pardon, sir, that you didn't stop to greet her. She recognizes your footstep, you know, sir."
"Yes, I'll be down," I said dully. Of course it had been my own energetic footstep the old woman had triumphantly acknowledged. But oh, the difference between this miserable practitioner and that great cold intellect who once inhabited these rooms. I waved the girl away.
Now, I said to myself, things are going too far. Anyone might mistake a shape or two at night in a winter street, but one must not allow oneself to go charging up stairs after beings who could exist only in one's own mind. Sure to induce heart failure, I severely told myself, in a man of my extreme age. I recalled how the old pump had worked. Very well, after all. After all, perhaps not the worst way to 90.
Feeling hot, I threw my coat open and walked slowly to the mantel. I took down the Persian slipper in which Holmes had always housed his shag. In fact, I kept a bit of the tobacco there myself now. I buried my nose in the toe of the slipper to have a comforting whiff.
But the shadow had moved! He had tacked the violin under his...
Meet the Author
Sena Jeter Naslund is a cofounder and program director of the Spalding University (Louisville) brief-residency MFA in Writing, where she edits The Louisville Review and Fleur-de-Lis Press. A winner of the Harper Lee Award and the Southeastern Library Association Fiction award, she is the author of eight previous works of fiction, including Ahab's Wife, a finalist for the Orange Prize. She recently retired from her position as Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Louisville.
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