Previous reviews are at Mack Pitches Up

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Seven-Per-cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer

The Seven-Percent-Cent Solution being a reprint from the reminiscences of John H. Watson, M.D. as edited by Nicolas Meyer. 1974.

It is 1891 and Sherlock Holmes' addiction to cocaine is destroying both his sanity and his life. In his drug saturated mind, Moriarty, a mild professor of mathematics and former tutor to Holmes and his brother Mycroft, has become the Napoleon of crime. Watson realizes that his friend is in desperate need of help when Moriarty approaches Watson threatening legal action against Holmes for persecuting him.

Watson goes to Mycroft and together they devise a plan to lure Sherlock to Vienna where Sigmund Freud may be able help him overcome his addiction. With a reluctant Moriatry leading the way, Holmes, Watson, and Toby the dog from The Sign of Four make their way across Europe to the home of Freud.

Freud is able to help Holmes break his physical dependence but his spirit is shattered. When Freud is asked to examine a woman who attempted suicide and is mute and traumatized, he invites Holmes and Watson along. The old Holmes emerges as he observes details about the woman and soon the game is afoot with the peace of Europe at stake.

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution is a most enjoyable pastiche of Sherlock Holmes adventures. I wouldn't call it revisionist as much as a logical explanation of why Moriatry, The Napoleon of Crime, appears so little in the canon. Drawing on the theories of Holmsian scholars such as William S. Baring-Gould (Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street: A life of the world's first consulting detective) and Trevor Hall (Sherlock Holmes--Ten Literary Studies) Meyer convincingly explains the Moriatry matter as well as revealing why Holmes has such an antipathy toward women and what led him to become a consulting detective.

The character of Sigmund Freud is well chosen for this story. Freud was deeply concerned about cocaine addiction which makes pairing him with Holmes and Watson not at all a stretch. Holmes and Freud also find that medical diagnosis and detective investigation are quite similar in approach.

Holmians will appreciate Watson's introductory comments where he clears up a number of troubling matters. Stories like "The Lion's Main," "The Mazarin Stone," "The Creeping Man," and "The Three Gables" are of such poor quality because they are "forgeries by other hands than mine." Inconsistencies in "The Final Problem" and "The Adventure of the Empty House" are explained because they are "total fabrications" written to explain the events in and following The Seven-Per-Cent Solution.

The Seven Per-Cent Solution is a wonderful tribute to the Holmes stories that contributed to my enjoyment of the canon stories.