Friday, November 9, 2018

Forgotten Books: THE SEVEN-PER-CENT SOLUTION by Nicholas Meyer (1974)

I had fond memories of this one, and had been looking forward to a second reading for a long time. Maybe that was the problem - that my expectations were too high. At any rate, this time through, I didn't really dig it. 

Sure, it's well written. Probably better written than most of the fifty or more other pastiches I read after this one. Stylistically, it's great. And yeah, it's a clever idea, with many clever touches. But the story - about Watson tricking Holmes into visiting Sigmund Freud to be cured of his cocaine adiction - seemed rather tedious. 

Though Meyer (via Watson) plays it cagey and avoids naming Freud until our two heroes are sitting in the doctor's office, it's really no surprise. Any reader who read the inside of the dust jacket or peeked at the back of the paperback knew what was coming. For me, having done both those things, plus read the book and seen the movie, it was just sort of sad. 

Two-thirds of the way through the book, the story shifts gears, giving Holmes a case to solve. And the sadness is finally gone. But the new plot is only mildly engaging, and the book is saved by a wildly melodramic and totally cinematic finale that's about as non-Sherlockian as you can get. Was the big finish entertaining? You bet. It was the best part of the film version of The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, too. But it was like something out of an old B-Western (if Roy Rogers didn't use that gimmick, he should have). 

This all sounds more negative than I intended, because it's really a pretty good book. It just wasn't as good as my memory of it, and I probably wasn't in the right mood. For this I blame Robert Jordan, because I was still under the spell of one his Conan books, and should have read another instead of shifting to Sherlock.


George said...

I read THE SEVEN-PER-CENT SOLUTION when it was first published. Still ranks as one of the best Sherlock Holmes pastiches!

Rick Robinson said...

I too read this soon after it was published, and still have that hardcover on the shelf, but I won't say it's one of the best pastiches that have been written. Good, but not great, as the saying goes. Still, I'd read it again, as my memory of it is a little faint.