In honor of Elementary‘s stellar ratings, this weekend’s reading recommendation will be Sherlock Holmes-based. It’s not canon, but as a fan of the original Arthur Conan Doyle stories, I found this book to be true to the spirit of Holmes, just with a supernatural twist.
The Choice: The List of Seven (1994) by Mark Frost.
You’ll like this if: You’re a fan of, well, Elementary, obviously, but also the BBC’s Sherlock or the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes series. (Sorry Robert Downey Jr., much as I love you, I can’t include your Sherlock Holmes movies on here.)
What it’s about: This Sherlock Holmes story follows not Dr. Watson and Mr. Holmes, but rather Arthur Conan Doyle himself. A poor doctor living in London, Doyle is fascinated by the occult. When a woman asks him to attend a seance, the doctor inadvertently stumbles on a cult of Satanists known as the Dark Brotherhood. Doyle is nearly killed to ensure his silence, but a mysterious man named Jack Sparks comes to his rescue and they team up to unmask a conspiracy that threatens not only London, but the entire world.
Why you should read it: Okay, I realize the plot of The List of Seven sounds like the first RDJ Sherlock Holmes movie, but it’s much more than that (or less, as in less explosions and less slow-mo). This book is surprisingly dark. Sparks, or so Frost tells us, is the inspiration for Doyle’s Holmes character, but that doesn’t mean he’s a carbon-copy of the detective. No, Sparks is much more emotional, much more volatile. He uses Holmes’ same cool reasoning, but he’s not infallible the way the real Doyle’s Holmes was. And that makes for a more interesting story. His past is haunting — readers should beware a reveal towards the middle of the book that is particularly traumatizing — but it gives the tale a sense of immediacy. This faux-Holmes has a much more personal stake in the mystery that’s afoot.
Similarly, Doyle is not the bumbling Watson we see so often in the lesser adaptations of the Sherlock Holmes stories. He’s a thinking man, one who is capable of getting along well enough without Sparks, but is made a better man when with him. They’re a team, you see. And, like the more modern adaptations of the Holmes stories, The List of Seven is not so much about emphasizing Holmes’ genius as it is about the friendship between two flawed men who are essentially each other’s soul mates. Also: it’s Holmes vs. the supernatural! How can you resist? A warning, though: skip the sequel (The Six Messiahs). It’ll only tarnish the memory of this excellent novel.
FUN FACT: Does the name Mark Frost sound familiar to you? That’s because he created Twin Peaks.