Here’s an example of crime fiction where the reader does not really sympathize with the victim, but cheers for the criminal. At least that was the case with me. The book opens with a discovery of a dead man in an abandoned house. The deceased does not appear to have any wounds, but the room is covered in blood. On the wall, among the torn wallpaper, police finds a menacing RACHE (German for “Revenge”) written in blood. It seems that a woman might be involved in the case, as a tiny wedding band is found on the victim’s body.The famous detective Sherlock Holmes is summoned to aid Scotland Yard in this strange case.
Nevermind the German writing on walls the book takes us to America, where we also learn the story of a man and his adopted daughter, who are rescued from imminent death in the desert by a group of Mormons. The two are permitted to join the travelers on the condition of converting to their faith. Trouble starts when the leaders of Mormons command the man to let his daughter join one of their sons in polygamous marriage.
I have to say that I wasn’t a fan of the second part of the book set in the Wild Wild West. The problem is not the writing, which is fantastic by the way, but the topic itself. I am generally not fond of books set in the time when first settlers were colonizing America. The main reason is probably the repetitious elements of drab deserts, gold fever, and constant “Cowboys and Indians” play. Another reason has probably something to do with the English representation of Americans in books as loud, rowdy, violent, and generally stupid gold-diggers. Same kind of feeling can be traced to the second part of A Study in Scarlet. Also, Sir Arthur makes Mormons look rather devilish, with their strange traditions and ever-present spying on each other. Obviously the book reflects some of the author’s own beliefs and stereotypes common in the 19th century, so biases are inevitable. Likewise, I am not a Mormonism specialist, so I can only judge things from my own high horse.
Overall, I did like the book for it’s fast pace and a believable plot, but I think it is not the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at his absolute best. Almost, but not quite. Sherlock Holmes is probably my all time favorite book hero, so I am twice as excited to revisit his adventures now that I have downloaded all his books on my Kobo Touch. Oh and I have to mention that I absolutely adore BBC’s new Sherlock series and cannot wait for more to be filmed.