Extended Summary

Graham Moore’s historical fiction/mystery novel The Sherlockian tells the stories of Harold White and Arthur Conan Doyle in alternating chapters. When Harold’s story begins, he has just been inducted into the Baker Street Irregulars, the most prestigious organization dedicated to Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective, Sherlock Holmes. In 2010, Harold is the youngest member of the society, and through his eyes the reader is introduced to this organization of “Sherlockians.” They are lovers of all things related to Sherlock Holmes and quote the stories to each other. Most of the Irregulars are equally informed about Arthur Conan Doyle’s life, but some of them suggest that Holmes was an actual person and that Doyle only recorded his adventures.

Arthur Conan Doyle’s story is set in 1900. By this time, Arthur has made his reputation on the basis of a series of stories about Sherlock Holmes, a detective who has mastered the “science of deduction.” The public loves Holmes, but Arthur hates him and describes the stories as “penny dreadfuls.” Arthur resolves to kill off his detective and writes “The Final Problem.” However, what Arthur does not expect is the public outcry over Holmes’s death. Now, when Arthur is recognized in public, people automatically berate him for killing off their beloved detective.

By the twenty-first century, all of this has been relegated to trivia games, except for the Irregulars. What they find most interesting is not that Holmes was later revived but rather that Arthur Conan Doyle’s diary from this period was lost. Why did Doyle choose to revive Holmes? The answer surely can be found in the lost diary. Incredibly, Alex Cale, the preeminent Sherlockian of his generation, claims to have found it. The Irregulars have joined together not only to welcome Harold White into their ranks but also to attend a lecture given by Cale on the diary and his upcoming biography of Doyle. However, when Cale arrives, he acts strangely. He suggests that the mystery of the diary is more important than solving it, and he also claims to have been followed.

Soon after, Harold meets Sarah, a reporter who has sneaked into the Irrgulars’ convention. Although she is officially unwelcome, Sarah and Harold hit it off. Sarah is hoping to sell the story of how Arthur Conan Doyle’s diary was found. She and Harold go to see Alex Cale, but they discover that he has been murdered. With his background of reading mystery novels, Harold proceeds to investigate the scene of the crime. He does not find any shoe prints and laments that Holmes always did, but he does find a message written in blood, which reads “elementary.” It recalls one of the earliest Sherlock Holmes stories, in which the killer left a message written in his blood. Harold also finds a shoelace, which is supposedly the murder weapon. In return for his investigation, Harold is heavily interrogated by the police.

However, after he is released, he and Sarah are approached by Sebastian Conan Doyle. Sebastian readily admits that he should be considered a prime suspect; however, he has an alibi. There was no love lost between Doyle’s heir and Cale. Sebastian considers Alex Cale a thief who was in possession of a Conan Doyle family heirloom worth a fortune. Sebastian agrees to help Harold find the diary. Reasoning that all of the Sherlockians are suspects in the murder, Harold decides the next step should be to look into Cale’s background. He and Sarah fly to London to investigate. There, they meet Cale’s sister, who lets them into his home and his office. When they arrive at the office, they discover that a “goateed man” has beat them to it. Although Sarah finds a flash drive with Cale’s work on it, Harold is surprised to find that it contains no new information on the diary. Before they can consider it, they realize that they are being followed, and a car chase ensues. It...

(The entire section is 1618 words.)