Three Sherlock Holmes Stories

The Missing Three-Quarters
Illustration for “The Missing Three-Quarters” by Sidney Paget for The Strand

I’m slowly catching up on the Chronological Sherlock Holmes Challenge. I read three stories today: “The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans,” “The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger,” and “The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter.” I’m now caught up to where I should have been as of mid-December. I need to read four more stories to catch totally up.

Sherlock’s brother Mycroft shows up in “The Bruce-Partington Plans” to enlist Sherlock’s help in a matter of great importance to the government: plans for a submarine have been stolen, and one of the men who might have done it has been found dead in the subway.

“The Veiled Lodger” is a story about a former circus worker who wants to unburden her soul and tell her story to Sherlock Holmes before she dies.

In “The Missing Three-Quarters” Sherlock is on the case to find a missing football star.

Of the three stories I read today, my favorite was easily “The Bruce-Partington Plans.” Mycroft is a great character. The atmosphere in the story also plays a brilliant role: London is so foggy in this story that just about any crime might be committed. Parts of this story find their way into the BBC Sherlock episode “The Great Game”: Andrew West’s name is similar to murder victim Arthur Cadogan West in the story, and their deaths are similar; John Watson’s blog post also refers to the Bruce-Partington Plans. “The Veiled Lodger” was kind of weird and forgettable. There was no real mystery to it. “The Missing Three-Quarter” was a little better than “The Veiled Lodger,” but only because there was at least a little mystery to solve—although it does have some choice Sherlock Holmes-style sarcasm. I don’t think any parts of “The Veiled Lodger” or “The Missing Three-Quarter” have found their way into BBC’s Sherlock.

“The Bruce-Partington Plans” Rating: ★★★★★
“The Veiled Lodger” Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
“The Missing Three-Quarter” Rating: ★★★☆☆

The Chronological Sherlock Holmes ChallengeI read these stories as part of the Chronological Sherlock Holmes Challenge. They are the 41st, 42nd, and 43rd stories in the chronology (time setting rather than composition). Next up is “The Abbey Grange.” I am about four stories behind.


Review: The Last Battle, C. S. Lewis, narrated by Patrick Stewart

The Last Battle is the final book in C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia series. It begins with an evil ape named Shift, who bosses around a donkey named Puzzle under the pretense of being the donkey’s friend. The two find a lion skin, and Shift gets the bright idea of having Puzzle wear it so they can fool everyone into thinking Puzzle is Aslan. A bunch of people believe it. There is a bit with some dwarfs. There is a centaur and a unicorn. The Pevensies, minus Susan, and Eustace, Jill, Digory, and Polly, are all pulled back to Narnia after a mysterious bit with a train. A bunch of people worship the evil god Tash and want him to come but aren’t very happy when he shows up.

I don’t know what heck I read.

Listen, I have no problem with Christian allegory. Despite what J. R. R. Tolkien thinks, a good case can be made for The Lord of the Rings as Christian allegory, especially if you put it with The Silmarillion. I also happen to be a Christian. However, in this novel, Lewis sacrificed the plot in favor of ham-handed allegory. And it’s not even good.

I was already prepared for the “problem of Susan,” as I had run into commentary on the subject prior to reading the book, but it bears mentioning that leaving Susan completely bereft of family because she’s a normal teenager is truly heinous. What, girls should not grow up and become women? That’s not pure enough?

But what really bothers me is that it’s supposed to be Christian allegory, and everyone’s killing people right and left. What the heck? I mean, I gather it’s more Revelations than Book of John, but still…

My advice to anyone who, like me, didn’t read these as a child and decides to read them as an adult is to read The Magician’s Nephew, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and leave it at that. Maybe The Horse and His Boy if you want to learn more about those characters, who only get a few mentions in the last couple of books and otherwise don’t figure much into the grand narrative. Stay far, far away from the final two books.

Racist, sexist, sloppily written, muddled, pile of crap. I don’t understand why a writer would desecrate his own writing like that. Patrick Stewart couldn’t save it, though his narration was brilliant. WORST. ENDING. EVER.

I so hate C. S. Lewis.

Book Rating: ½☆☆☆☆
Audio Rating: ★★★★★

No Vampires

Wuthering Bites, Well, Bites

No VampiresI gave Wuthering Bites a fair try. I actually read up to page 52. There will be no more vampires in my Wuthering Heights. Well, maybe psychological vampires, but not real ones. I honestly don’t think that mashing up Wuthering Heights with a vampire story is a bad idea, but the execution of the mash-up is what I object to. It’s sloppy. Every once in a while there is a random reference to the huge vampire problem Yorkshire seems to have developed. Some of it was funny, but funny bad, not funny ha-ha. I just can’t force myself through it anymore. What makes me sad is that my department chair bought me this book for my birthday. Oh, the perils of giving books as gifts! You just never know if the other person is going to enjoy it. I tried to! I really did want to like this book, and I think I gave it longer than I ordinarily would have.

I don’t think it’s my sense of humor. I can laugh at parodies of just about anything I love, but good parodies, you know? An example, so that you can see what I mean:

Mr. Heathcliff formed a contrast to his abode. Despite his dark-haired, dark-eyed gypsy looks, in dress and manners he seems a gentleman country squire. By his appearance, some might suspect a degree of underbred pride; gypsies are known for such arrogance, and I wonder if he could be one of them. Since the infestation of the vampires, the gypsy vampire slayers have become bold in their haughtiness. With some right, as it is their skill and courage to keep the beasties from devouring all of us and taking over our fair country. But I am running too fast, bestowing attributes on Mr. Heathcliff that might be unfounded. (4)

If you care, this is the passage’s “inspiration” in the original Wuthering Heights:

But Mr. Heathcliff forms a singular contrast to his abode and style of living. He is a dark-skinned gipsy in aspect, in dress and manners a gentleman: that is, as much a gentleman as many a country squire: rather slovenly, perhaps, yet not looking amiss with his negligence, because he has an erect and handsome figure; and rather morose. Possibly, some people might suspect him of a degree of under-bred pride; I have a sympathetic chord within that tells me it is nothing of the sort: I know, by instinct, his reserve springs from an aversion to showy displays of feeling—to manifestations of mutual kindliness. He’ll love and hate equally under cover, and esteem it a species of impertinence to be loved or hated again. No, I’m running on too fast: I bestow my own attributes over-liberally on him. (5-6)

So, yeah. There’s that. The biggest problem is that the vampires are just sort of plopped in there, and only serve to garble the plot. I decided to read the last page. If you plan to read this book, and I don’t recommend it, then close your eyes.

In this book, Lockwood marries Nelly Dean.

Yep. Here it goes:

In truth, it was more than the promised adventure that drew me; it was the seductive [!!!—sorry, had to interrupt; you may carry on] and fascinating Mrs. Dean. A gentleman I am, and a man of breeding and quality I do claim to be, but in fact, my own father was born into a family of shipwrights, and I learned honest labor before I was ever tucked off to Cambridge and the life of my betters. My parents and siblings and every last stitch and knob of kin have vanished, and if I wished to take a clever and loving woman to wife, what care I if she began her days below stairs? (361-362)

Wait, what? Stitch and knob? What the @#$%& is that supposed to mean? I Googled it, and I get three references to cars and one to a sewing machine.

Oh, and Hareton and young Cathy burn Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange to the ground. Gah. I wish I’d closed my own eyes.

OK, you can open your eyes now.

I don’t often make it a practice to review books I don’t finish, but I’m not likely to finish this one, and frankly, I don’t want anyone else to waste their time. Unless spontaneously bleeding from your eyes is, you know, your “thing.”

God, I hope this mash-up craze dies soon.

No Vampires Beyond this Point

Rating: ½☆☆☆☆

Update, 10/24/10: The BrontëBlog has reviewed this book (they agree with me, so you can assume I’m not crazy. In case you were.)