Review : The Curious Book of Sherlock Holmes Characters by Mike Foy

I received a complementary copy of this book for review purposes.

Mike Foy's book is a comprehensive directory of every character in the Sherlock Holmes Canon.

This has, of course, been done before and in physically smaller books but this book is nonetheless a treasure trove of information.

Foy's book very sensibly proceeds in a simple alphabetical format (by character rather than story) and, equally sensibly, has a comprehensive index. Characters I didn't even consider characters are represented such as Desborough - a horse from Silver Blaze.  In short, if it had a name it's in the book. 

For each character we are given their name, story (using the standard four-letter abbreviations), sex, and whether they are alive or dead in the Canon. If a character begins a story alive but ends up dead they are listed as dead. An example of this being John Openshaw from The Five Orange Pips.

Here you can see how characters are highlighted

In addition to the above information, and depending on the importance of the character, you are given details about them. This can range from their physical appearance to what their occupation was and, if relevant, what Holmes deduced about them. These details vary in length. Holmes himself has a predictably long entry in the book whereas someone like Captain Ferguson (from 3GAB) is concisely described as follows:

"A retired sea captain who owned the house before Mrs Maberley. Holmes asked if there was anything about remarkable about him, and if he had buried something. Mrs Maberley answered in the negative".

Illustrations from the stories by all manner of artists are displayed in the book and I especially liked the way the characters under discussion are highlighted within them.
Often the illustrations of English and US artists are displayed alongside each other and it is very interesting to see how the different illustrators approached their commissions.

Following the descriptions and the index are a series of tables listing the stories (by four-letter abbreviation) in chronological order (when they supposedly took place rather than when they were published); in alphabetical order (by abbreviation) and, finally, in publication order.

For the first table Foy does not say whose chronology he has used or whether he has come up with his own. 

Do I have any criticisms? Yes. The book is large and over 500 pages. As a result it is rather cumbersome but, to be fair, when it is this comprehensive it's hard to see how they could have made it smaller without affecting the quality of the illustrations. 

I'm not a fan of what I believe is known as ragged-right for text layout. I prefer a book to be fully blocked. This detracted from the look of the book a little for me but it's a personal thing and other readers may not be concerned by this.

Some people might be deterred by the cover price (£34.99, €39.99, $44.95). To them I would say that if you don't already have a book like this it is very much worth it. If you are in possession of a similar book already, and are not a completist, you might decide it's not worth it for you. If I was in the position of having to buy it I would do so even though I already own similar books.

Written by Alistair Duncan Buy my books here