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Review of In Search of Doctor Watson 2nd Edition by Molly Carr

23 Oct

“According to the author, this book “falls naturally into two parts: the Doctor as written about by Doyle, and an exploration of the concept of the foil before, during and after the first appearance of Watson.”

She is, however, doing herself an injustice with this relatively bald statement. Part One covers every aspect of a character that you can imagine, the friends and acquaintances on which Doyle may have drawn – or not, and, if not, why not –for inspiration;  the places and actions and fallacies of same – in a historical context; Watson’s own background and possible ‘origins’, his income and where that would fit into London society.

For me, just as interesting as this detailed investigation is the wealth of background information and research that is included to paint such a complete and convincing picture: the history of the Field Medical Services, the 66th’s movements during the Second Anglo-Afghan War, the attitude of the medical profession (including Doyle) towards dressers, the description of Charles Booth’s social system etc. etc.

Equally fascinating is her attempt to construct a plausible  timeline before and, especially, after Maiwand and Peshawar and when Watson met Holmes; naturally she has to excuse the former for the occasional lapse of memory as to precisely in which hospital he was tended for his shoulder wound. She even suggests that Watson purposely chose New Year’s Day for their first meeting as it “makes for better ‘theatre’.”

Equally interesting is the discussion on the literary duos spawned [by Holmes and Watson], although I would disagree with her argument – when discussing Arthur Morrison’s  lack of success with his Strand stories which appeared soon after The Final Problem – that “what the readers…of the Strand desperately wanted was a second Holmes and Watson.” What they clearly clamoured for – and eventually got – was the return of the original! Raffles & Bunny, Drs Thorndyke and Jarvis, Lord Peter Wimsey & Bunter, Sexton Blake & Tinker, Poirot & Hastings: they are all there,  but the conclusion is, naturally,  that there‘s only one Holmes and Watson!

Can I find any fault in this, perhaps definitive, work on Dr. Watson? Well yes, just one: given that the author shares her extensive knowledge of relevant sources with us, an index and/or bibliography would be handy for the interested researcher. Something for the next edition maybe.

But in the meantime this one can be wholly recommended.”

This review appeared in THE TORR: The Journal of ‘The Poor Folk Upon the Moors’ The Sherlock Holmes Society of the West Country. Issue No. 43  – Autumn 2013

In Search of Dr Watson 2nd Edition is available from all good bookstores including Amazon USABarnes and NobleAmazon UK and Waterstones. For elsewhere Book Depository who offer free delivery worldwide. In ebook format it is in KindleKoboNook and iBooks(iPad/iPhone).

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