Sir F. Chook, Inventor of Leopard Oil

Likeness captured upon a daguerrotype machine in Japan, July 1891

Lettres

Wherein the Author reflects upon certain topical & personal issues of the Day.

On Detectives

Penned upon the 6th of December, 2007

I love mysteries. I can’t get enough of them. I never figure them out before the end, of course – the only one I ever did was ‘The Valley of Fear’ and that was because it was really terrible. No, I just like seeing the clues pile up and marvelling at the cleverness of the villains’ plot and the detective’s solution. Sometimes, they’ll be one and the same – the gentleman-thief will both pull off the heist and prevent one even more dastardly from going down. That’s fun too!

I recall I once shared a little review of the computer adaptation of ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ – an unfavourable one. It’s hard to imagine it any other way, though, really – Christie’s strength is not plots, but characters, and a typical Poirot crime could have been commited by any of a number of subjects. It is subtle psychological hints, not accumulated evidence, which points Hercule Poirot to the perpetrator. Not really videogame fare, is it?

I mention this because I noticed today that a new Sherlock Holmes game has been released. Holmes lends himself better to the interactive model; to gradually eliminating the impossible. There have been a few efforts over the years – in fact, one of the first games I ever owned was ‘Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective,’ back when people still made FMV games. I saw ‘Sherlock Holmes: Secret of the Silver Earring’ and it looked dreadful, so I gave Lovecraft cross-over ‘Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened’ a miss.

The new release is ‘Sherlock Holmes vs. Arsène Lupin’, and it has been getting positive reviews… but the truth is, Lupin has never really floated my skipper. The prospect of a catburglar hero is entirely sound – A. J. Raffles pulls it off, after all – but Lupin’s stories are so dreadfully overwritten; that all France fears Lupin’s very name is reiterated every other page, while Lupin’s schemes usually amount to “grab all the dosh and chuck it in a van,” “stand on the victim’s windpipe then run” and so on. Plus, Lupin is always changing appearances and identities – how are we supposed to sympathise with his character? One can’t hug a shadow.

For my money, though I’d have to revisit it to see if I remember it well, the best modern day inheritor of the Holmesean detective method is Jonathan Creek starring Alan Davies. Creek plays a magician’s ingénieur, using his undstanding of misdirection to solve crimes which seem impossible to have committed. Davies is also enormously fluffy, and a regular on Stephen Fry’s QI, so he beats out Hugh Laurie’s House in my eyes.


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