Rare yet influential characters

In my opinion the Holmes canon contains three figures who, despite only one or two appearances, linger in the minds of Sherlockians.

The first and most obvious of these is Professor Moriarty. He's an active character in The Final Problem and a background presence in The Valley of Fear but you would be forgiven for thinking that he featured in, or was behind, a significant number of Holmes's adventures.

The same can be said for number two on the list - Mycroft Holmes. The Greek Interpreter and The Bruce-Partington Plans were his two outings but again you would be forgiven for thinking otherwise.

The final figure in this triumvirate is Irene Adler. She only has one story to her credit - A Scandal in Bohemia - but she too stands out. In her case it is mostly due to her being the only woman to out manoeuvre Sherlock Holmes.

The strong impression these characters have made is mostly down to screen adaptations. Moriarty and Mycroft, in particular, have featured in more films than they should have done. In the case of the former he has even had his own series of books and has appeared in Star Trek.

However, to this list should be added a fourth. A figure who should, by rights, excite every Holmes fan. It is true that he appeared towards the end of the canon and only once but for me he represents a fascinating figure, perhaps the most fascinating since Inspector Baynes from The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge.

My mysterious figure is one gentleman by the name of Barker. Holmes describes him, in The Adventure of the Retired Colourman, as his 'hated rival'. I've always taken this remark as tongue-in-cheek. Like Baynes, Barker is an intelligent man who is almost as clever as Holmes.

Barker (shown here on the extreme left) comes across as a little more physical than Holmes but is nonetheless a capable amateur detective. In some respects he comes across as a homage to the most successful Holmes clone - Sexton Blake - beyond the fact that he had a moustache where Blake (as far as I know) did not.
It surprises me that no one has yet taken it upon themselves to subject this character to the pastiche treatment. I know that I am not up to the task so I hope that someone else can pick up this particular baton.

1 comment:

  1. One could argue that Will Thomas' Cyrus Barker is a tribute to the mysterious rival of Sherlock Holmes, although I have no evidence he named the character after the Canonical Barker.