Sherlock Holmes Society of London
Alistair Duncan knows his Holmes, and he brings a fresh eye to this 240-page survey of the Canon and its film and TV off-shoots. Eliminate the Impossible is well written and entertaining. The story summaries are concise and accurate, and the notes are frequently incisive. Most interesting, to my mind, and most controversial, are the comments on film and television portrayals.
The book begins with a brief examination of the effect that the stories have had on modern crime literature. It goes on to examine the origins of the character of Holmes himself from his appearance to his drug use and supposed dislike of women. We then move onto a mini-biography of some of the significant characters in the series. Each of the original stories by Conan Doyle is examined in an effort to explain some of the more esoteric aspects and an examination is made of the attempts to form a proper chronology for the stories - as Doyle did not write the stories in strict chronological order.
The second half of the book focuses on Holmes's career on the screen. There is a brief examination of some of the more notable actors to have portrayed Holmes and the films in which they appeared. Finally we look at the possible requirements for a definitive screen portrayal of the canon.
Alistair Duncan's book 'Eliminate the Impossible' provides a useful guide to the Sherlock Holmes Saga and combines a rigorous and detailed precis of all the plots of the Sherlock Holmes stories including a list of the stories' publication dates and an attempt to correctly place them in a chronological time scheme, a method largely based on a critical evaluation of the chronology of the stories, mainly initiated by earlier commentators of the stories. The book also includes a discussion of the character of Holmes and puts into perspective his use of drugs which is largely regarded as moderate.
We find Mr Duncan is at pains to emphasise the lack of credibility of those who like to assume that Holmes was a homosexual. Whilst most of the commentary is very familiar and occupies well-trodden ground, the idea having been first developed in Michael Hardwick's 'Sherlock Holmes Companion' many years ago, to me, the most interesting part was the detailed discussion of the film and television representations of the great detective where Mr Duncan comes into his own in terms of critical evaluation of the acting styles and production values. Altogether, then, a most reliable and accurate account of the Sherlock Holmes
phenomenon, which will be of special value to those who have not read much wider than the stories themselves and would perhaps be about to throw themselves into the lion's den of the so-called 'Higher Criticism.'