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Sherlock in Love

Sherlock in Love

by Sena Jeter Naslund

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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.

Editorial Reviews

Los Angeles Times
Orginal and affecting...Naslund has constructed an intricate plot...usually poignant.
Loaded with surprise and twists of plot appropriate to Sherlock Holmes. Irresistible.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
After Holmes's death, Dr. John Watson decides to write the great man's biography, but his ad in the Times requesting letters and interviews elicits only Mycroft Holmes's ire and an anonymous note warning him to abandon the project. In looking at Holmes's Stradivarius, Watson is reminded of Victor Sigerson, the odd and flamboyantly attired fellow--an accomplished musician, juggler and magician--who had given the valuable violin to the famous sleuth. The good doctor recalls being baffled by the way Holmes had taken to Sigerson, pursuing his violin practice with an uncharacteristic enthusiasm. Watson had never learned the surprising nature of what Sigerson and Holmes shared besides their love of music. Up to this point, about halfway through the novel, Naslund ( Ice Skating at the North Pole ) keeps her readers enthralled. But the narrative loses its grip as Sigerson becomes embroiled in the silly affairs of mad King Leopold, from which Holmes must extricate him. Returning to the present, Watson uncovers some secrets about Holmes's family known previously only to a few. Initially lively and fun, Naslund's imaginative work is based on an intriguing premise that is ill-served by its resolution. (Oct.)
Library Journal
The ever-popular Sherlock Holmes is the subject of at least three novels this fall. Nicholas Meyer's The Canary Trainer: From the Memoirs of John W. Watson (Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/93) is a promising but ultimately unsuccessful blend of the legends of Holmes and of the Phantom of the Opera. Though gripping, Mark Frost's The List of Seven ( LJ 7/1/93) relies too much on the supernatural for true Holmes lovers. Despite its title--Holmes in love?--Naslund's work comes closest to achieving the style of Doyle's original work. As it opens, Holmes is dead, and a dispirited Watson has decided to write his biography. He immediately begins receiving ominous threats. Pages torn from Holmes's record books lead Watson to reconstruct the detective's mysterious bond with the talented violinist Victor Sigerson. Readers won't be surprised when Sigerson turns out to be a woman in disguise, but there are twists and turns to come. In the end, Violet Sigerson's story gets a bit preposterous--not all of Naslund's inventions are as convincing as Doyle's--but Holmes fans should find this book enjoyable and atmospheric.-- Barbara Hoffert, ``Library Journal''
One more Holmes recreation--this with a modern feminist sensibility. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
A triumphant reimagining of the Sherlock Holmes canon that identifies, once and for all, the great love of the detective's life. Detailed summary would wreck the inventive plot by unmasking its mysteries, which begin to unfold when Dr. Watson's 1922 announcement that he is writing a biography of his late friend brings a storm of threats and warnings against the project—two of them from Mycroft Holmes and a writer identifying herself as Mrs. John H. Watson. The disappearance and reappearance of a mysterious old mental patient called Nannerl leads Watson to a secret Holmes had kept even from him (a secret that someone is now determined to keep from coming to light): Holmes's fascination, dating back to his earliest years with Watson, with Victor Sigerson, the gifted violinist who gave the detective lessons back in 1886 and left him his prized Stradivarius in his will. By comparing his own notes on the Sigerson affair with Holmes's account in his diary, Watson uncovers the woman, code-named "English Violet," with whom Holmes was secretly in love—the woman for whom he traveled that summer to the kingdom of Ludwig II in a futile diplomatic errand that placed both Holmes and Violet in danger. Where does all this leave Irene Adler, the woman of Holmes legend? Don't worry: Naslund (the story collection Ice Skating at the North Pole, 1989) calls on her to point the feminist moral of Holmes's romance in a magical epilogue. Despite some incredible flights of fancy in Ludwig's fairy-tale Bavaria: one of the very few Holmes pastiches that not only honors the great man's memory (compare Nicholas Meyer's slapdash The Canary Trainer, p. 821) but unleashes his residual mythicpower for more ambitious purposes.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Harper Perennial
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.54(d)

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Read an Excerpt

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:

The Biography of Sherlock Holmes To be Written. His Chronicler Requests interview, Letters, Etc.. Concerning him. Contact John Watson M.D., 221B Baker Street.

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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