The Seven-Percent Solution

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Seven-Percent Solution
Nicholas Meyer, 1974
(re-post of my goodreads review)

For anyone who is unaware, The Seven-Percent Solution is a novel in which Sherlock Holmes loses control of his cocaine addiction, requiring a trip out of the country and treatment by Sigmund Freud. I read it back in 2008, and wrote most of this at the time [since edited for clarity].

Color me unimpressed. It's an interesting concept, but not so well executed. I'll believe that it was impressive when published (and the general populace/culture still respected Freud when it was written), and maybe I'm too much of a Holmes fan (and too much of a Holmes/Russell fangirl).

But it felt to me from the beginning that Meyer didn't have any new ideas.  It continually rankled me, the way he made lame excuses for why his book doesn't read like Conan Doyle, despite supposedly also being written by Watson.  He kept pointing out allusions to this or that Holmes story, or to other literary works.  As if to say: 'Nudge, nudge, see! I read the original, and all these other books too! Aren't I smart!'

I've hardly ever read a chase scene that was so... slow.

He halfway tries to make it fit with the story (The Final Problem/Adventure of the Empty House) as written, by saying that Watson wrote those to cover the real story (cocaine induced dementia, soul-searching holiday).

However, if you're going to write Moriarty out of the Holmes canon, you better have a damn good story to replace it, and he doesn't.

*Nitpicky Sherlockian Alert*
ALSO: It doesn't work. The explanation at the start of "The Final Problem" is that Watson writes the story to explain what happened between Moriarty and Holmes, since Moriarty's brother "defends [Moriarty's] memory [with].... an absolute perversion of the facts". If we were to take The Seven-Per-Cent Solution as true in-world, then Moriarty, despite being a jerk, is not evil, and is ALIVE in England. Why in the world would Watson write a story accusing an innocent man of being a criminal mastermind? It doesn't make a bit of sense. If he were to write a story to "cover" Holmes' disappearance, he could have written anything! Meyer says that Watson wrote it, but never why, other then to 'cover' the true facts and because Holmes makes a terrible joke on the last page. Humph.
*End Nitpicking Alert*

Finally, the part where he's actually getting over the cocaine addiction is BORING, and the mystery that pads out the second half of the book is as well.  Either make it work with the existing stories or don't, but in my view this author never made up his mind.

One Star - Didn't Like It.

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