Monday, December 31, 2012

Sherlock Holmes Deconstructed: Partha Basu's The Curious Case of 221B

In my early school-going days, Sherlock Holmes was THE DETECTIVE. My bhuaji's husband (whom as is wont in our family, we called Jijaji) told us enthusiastically about how as a young boy in Quetta, he and some of his schoolmates, who knew English, would narrate the adventures of Holmes to the village elders. So impressed were the elders by the exploits of Holmes that some young men were given the task of translating Holmes' adventures into Urdu so that who did not know English could read about the exploits themselves.

 I, though did not share Jijaji's fondness for Holmes, preferring the grey cells of Poirot. However, just suppose that all we knew about Holmes was not the entire truth, that Watson wrote down the true version of events in his diaries. And years later, these diaries come in the possession of a young man ...

Jit is your average young man in India when one fine day his parents are shot dead by certain extremists. Numb with shock, Jit goes through the ceremonies and while clearing up his parents' belongings comes across a wooden chest. Enclosed within the chest are the notebooks of Watson that he had posted to Jit's parents. Jit realises with a shock that there were many things about his parents that he did not know about as also the fact that many of the adventures of Holmes were, in truth, very different from their published version. Holmes was not that infallible, Watson was not a mere stooge, the women in the Holmesian canon had a mind of their on and so forth.

In his first novel, Partha Basu, deconstructs the legend of Holmes, rewriting the adventures from the p-o-v of the women, people from the colonies, and thus makes even minor characters come alive. Mostly a reworking of stories that have a connect with the Indian sub-continent, this book is quite worth a read. I especially liked the story regarding the disappearance of James Phillimore, whom Watson mentions just in passing at the beginning of 'The Problem of Thor Bridge'.

Reading the book has made me feel like re-reading the Holmesian canon.


First Line: It's now ninety-one days since my parents were gunned down outside the gate of their house, in the sun.

Title: The Curious Case of 221B: The Secret Notebooks of John H Watson, MD

Author: ND: Harper Collins, 2009

First published: 2009

Pages: 277

Other books read of the same author: None


The book can be purchased online. I borrowed it from the college library.


Submitted for the following challenges: Death by Gaslight, Merely Mystery, Mystery and Suspense, New Authors, South Asian, Wishlist

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