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Philip K. Jones reviews The Final Page of Baker Street

05 Dec

“This book is based on the assumption that the final page (Billy the Page) employed at 221 Baker Street while Holmes lived there was Raymond Chandler.  Within the world of the Canon, this is a plausible assumption.  During 1903, Raymond Chandler was a day-student at Dulwich College (UK, Secondary School), near London.  After leaving Dulwich, he became a professional writer and he stayed in the UK until 1911.  since Raymond was born in Kansas, he retained American citizenship, even though his mother, who was Irish, brought him to England to live with her mother after his father deserted them.

The close association between Holmes and Billy the page is mentioned in Watson’s later writings about the final year before Holmes retired. This book provides background material for the later events which entangled Holmes and Watson once more in the life of “Billy.”  It so happens that I am a fan of Chandler’s stories about the detective, Philip Marlowe, and I have read and enjoyed all of them several times.

The really amazing thing about this book is the author’s ability to call up the ‘essence’ of both the Baker Street ‘digs’ of Holmes and Watson as well as that of the ‘mean streets’ of Marlowe’s Los Angeles.  Although none of the action takes place in either place, Holmes and Watson share a sense of camaraderie and self-confidence in facing threats and problems that also pervades many of the later tales in the Canon.  Following their conversations and banter is a return to Edwardian England and its certainties and hope for the future.  This is definitely the world before The Great War

When the action focuses on Chandler, we walk into Marlowe’s world of cynical despair with society and of loneliness and distrust.  Chandler is truly a stranger passing through this world, a homesick, tarnished angel grieving for a lost paradise forever denied him.

Adding in Colonel Sebastian Moran as a villain brings in a sense of continuity that is both comforting and frightening.  His motivation is even more surprising for who could imagine “the second most dangerous man in England” acting out of love and concern for another?

For Chandler fans, the book relives “The Long Goodbye” and, in lesser ways, “The Big Sleep.”  There are also echoes of “Little Sister” and “The High Window,” as well as some of his shorter works.  I have read at least three Marlowe pastiches and none captured the essence of Marlowe nearly so well as this book.   I have also presented a serious analysis of Doyle’s style in writing the Canon and, again, this book captures the essence of “The Return…” and “The Casebook…” stories better than any other writer I have read.”

The Final Page of Baker Street is available from all good bookstores including   Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Waterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository .

9781780927053

 

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