I'm not a Sherlockian scholar, but I do consider myself a devoted fan of the books (and the BBC series starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman). Today at Maine Crime Writers I offer a straightforward quiz to test your own knowledge of Arthur Conan Doyle's singular detective. How do you score?
If ever I create a list of my favorite crime television shows, the modern update of Sherlock Holmes is bound to land somewhere near the top. I'm one of the many Americans who can't wait for the second season of the BBC series to begin on PBS. May 6 can't come soon enough.
I have a post up at Maine Crime Writers today about crime in isolated places and how it's different from the atrocities that occur in cities. Arthur Conan Doyle identified the phenomenon in one of his eerier short stories, "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches," but you can see its manifestation in contemporary criminal cases like that of Jaycee Dugard which is more horrifying than anything Sherlock Holmes ever faced.
Alyssa Rosenberg has an interesting item today about a move by the Albemarle County School Board to take a Study in Scarlet off the sixth-grade reading list. The boardmembers deemed the first Sherlock Holmes novel insufficiently respectful to Mormons.
While lost of accusations of racism, sexism, or anti-religious bias that lead to book-banning are specious or un-subtle, this is a sensationalistic novel. There’s no question that Arthur Conan Doyle’s depiction of Mormonism in A Study in Scarlet, written in 1886, 42 years after Joseph Smith’s death but four years before the 1890 manifesto that disavowed plural marriage in the church, is sensationalist. The plot revolves heavily around a forced plural marriage and Mormon military units like the Danite bands.
Rosenberg points out that the book isn't entirely unsympathetic to Mormons, and the sensationalism flows in many directions. No one, she says, would ever mistake it for a definitive history of the Church of Latter Day Saints.
And more importantly, even if the details are sensationalistic, it is true that plural marriage and defense of the faith by force are part of early Mormon history. There’s a difference between a right to have the fact that you believe treated with respect, and the right to have the history your faith presented only the terms that make you comfortable, no matter the actual facts. Children also have a right to learn critical thinking in school, and works that offend no one are unlikely to help them develop those skills.
She would like to see the Baker Street Irregulars purchase a bunch of Sherlock Holmes books for Albemarle County schoolkids in response. That's a cause I would gladly support.
Christopher Morgan, writing for the Criminal Element, has some other good points about the Scandal in Charlottesville here.