Friday, 28 August 2015

Review: Investigating Sherlock by Nikki Stafford

Publication Date: September 1st 2015
Publisher: ECW Press
Length: 240 pages

Thanks to Netgalley and ECW Press for sending me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review

He’s been depicted as a serious thinker, a master of deduction, a hopeless addict, a bare-knuckle fighter. His companion is a bumbler, a sympathetic equal, someone helpless in the face of his friend’s social inadequacies. Sherlock Holmes and John Watson remain the most-adapted fictional characters of all time. In 2010, when Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman stepped into the roles, they managed to meld many previous incarnations into two glorious performances. Over Sherlock’s first three seasons, the Emmy-winning series has brought new life to stories almost 130 years old and, with its Holmes and Watson for the 21st century, created a worldwide fandom unlike any other.
Investigating Sherlock, written by bestselling author Nikki Stafford, examines each episode through in-depth and fun analysis, exploring the character development and cataloguing every subtle reference to the original stories. With biographies of Cumberbatch and Freeman, as well as Arthur Conan Doyle, Investigating Sherlock is the ultimate guide to the great detective.

I am a huge fan of the BBC Sherlock series, so I was incredibly excited to dig into this unofficial companion guide, and whilst it was an interesting enough read, it failed to really grab me and inspire me in the way I was hoping.

For massive fans of both the TV show and the original stories, this companion won’t provide anything new. The extra information is taken from DVD commentaries and well publicised interviews, as well as information, stories and characters all available through Doyle’s original stories. So if you’ve combed all of the original source material and are an active fan then this book will provide nothing new. It’s an interesting enough read (although some of the delivery of the additional information does come across as a little condescending and pompous) and for those who haven’t seen the episodes or read the stories in a while, this will be a good book to dig into.

However I did have a few problems with it. The writing is a little bit scattered, as if the author is following a train of thought and skips all over the place back and forth between different topics, particularly at the start. As a result it doesn’t feel like a cohesive piece, and the topics aren’t as accessible to the reader as they could have been made.

It was also alarming to discover that some of the ‘facts’ weren’t actually correct and a simple re-watch of the episode could have resolved them. But my biggest frustration was the way fandom was handled. Most shows and movies have a fandom these days, but Sherlock has one of the biggest and most vocal. It felt strange then to be reading a book claiming to be investigating the tv series and all that surrounds it, that all but ignored fandom (apart from one or two very brief nods to theories that the author has enjoyed and some disparaging comments about shippers) when fandom has played such a huge role in the success of the show. The creators themselves have commented on the impact that fandom has had and the show’s worldwide popularity as a result, so to all but ignore it seemed a little odd – a dirty secret that should really be swept under the rug.

The book reads like an essay of one individual’s thoughts on the series and how they feel the episodes portray characters and readings of scenes, and as a result they discard and ignore any ideas or theories that don’t fit in with their mind-set. No-where is this more apparent than in the examination of the final episode of season three, and anyone who disagrees with the authors thoughts may find this more than a little frustrating.

The book has several interviews with long time Doyle fans, backstory on Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss, Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman and Arthur Conan Doyle. It also looks at each episode in detail, giving opinions, comparisons to the original stories, errors and additional facts, plus a couple of additional essays including one on Sherlock’s self-proclaimed status as a sociopath. It’s an interesting read, but as I said, doesn’t really add anything new. So if you’re looking for more theories, more discussion and a more intense break-down of scenes, characters and episodes, you’re more likely to find it for free on tumblr than in this. 

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