We have red and studied five of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and throughout the next few pages I will be discussing if his stories are typical or not in Detective Fiction.
In Detective Fiction it doesn’t matter how much difference the plots are, it is basically the same story, every story in Detective Fiction contains a wise and noble detective with a less intelligent sidekick or apprentice (amanuensis), who is after a villain or murderer who is out for revenge or greed, finding clues until finally leading up to the normally surprising Denouement, where the detective rounds up the clues they have found and explains who did it and how in the gripping story finale.
Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes first appeared in a local newspaper in the late 1880s and was a series of short stories narrated by Holmes’ friend and companion Dr John H. Watson (named just Watson in the stories) until becoming a series of novels in the early 1890s, and finishing with “The Final Problem” and Holmes’ death in 1927. Since then the Sherlock Holmes novels have inspired and amazed readers from all across the world and created the newly formed fiction we all know today, But is Conan Doyle’s fiction typical in what we class as Detective Fiction?
In any story in Detective Fiction the setting is always important, if the setting wasn’t in common with the villain or the crime it lowers the overall story, for example if the story was set in a sunny and happy country home but the villain was a rough mean murderer, the reader would lose interest, however if the story was set in a grimy, wet, cold and dark part of London the story would fit with the crime that was committed whether murder or theft.
In Sherlock Holmes, Conan Doyle uses the setting of his stories to demonstrate and amplify the danger and roughness of Holmes adventures and to tie in with the way the villain acts in the stories they appear in. For example when Watson entered the opeum den in “The Man with a Twisted Lip” whilst looking for his friend, Conan Doyle described the den as “A long, low room, thick and heavy with the brown opium smoke, and terraced with wooden berths, like the fore castle of an emigrant ship.
” But he doesn’t just do descriptions of rooms or places; in “His Last Bow” he writes “One might have thought already that Gods curse hung heavy over a degenerate world, for there was an awesome hush and a feeling of vague expectancy in the sultry and stagnant air. The sun had long set, but one blood-red gash like an open wound lay low in the distant west. Above, the stars were shining brightly; and below, the lights of the shipping glimmered in the bay. ” This shows the greatness in the mind Conan Doyle has for writing a detailed description for a First World War scenario.
From those quotes we can tell that Conan Doyle used his writing techniques so that his settings went further into detail than any other story in the Detective Genre was written, and this separated Sherlock Holmes by making it more famous due to the fact that the depth of Conan Doyle’s settings made his stories almost real. But not all of the Sherlock Holmes stories stick to the grim and bleak settings which is common to the Detective Genre, “The Man with a Twisted Lip” in a prime example of this, when Conan Doyle wrote about Holmes and Watson staying in a elegant country cottage whist investigating the disappearance of Neville St Clair.
The commands of the Detective Genre state that the setting should always be in a grim atmosphere, but the fact that Conan Doyle decided to use a range of settings in his stories tells us that his stories are more real to the mind and more curious to the story because we expect all of the scenes to be the dark and mysterious settings that we were expected to read about. The themes used in Detective Fiction are normally the same, whether a murder is committed because they want revenge or someone is killed because of a fortune and then lying or deceit to cover their crimes up.
The stories of Sherlock Holmes does use this but also Doyle uses stories without murder to throw us of the scent of his stories, still using deceit and lies, he uses this in two of his stories that we have read, they were “The Man with a Twisted Lip” where Conan Doyle made us think that the crippled beggar, Hugh Boone, killed Neville St Clair, but ending up in the denouement that Boone was Neville St Clair in disguise. “Holmes stooped to the water jug, moistened his sponge, and then rubbed it twice vigorously across and down the prisoners face. “Let me introduce you” he shouted “to Mr Neville St Clair, of Lee, in the county of Kent.