Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Power of Sherlock Holmes

by Sara Rosett 

Photo: Cyril Thomas 
According to Wikipedia, the first Sherlock Holmes story appeared 127 years ago in 1887. The novel, A Study in Scarlet, struck a cord with readers. 

The publication of a several short stories in 1891 in The Strand Magazine vaulted the main character of Sherlock Holmes to popularity that continues to this day.

Sherlock has become a stable of the entertainment industry. Besides the nearly endless list of plays and feature films based on the books by Arthur Conan Doyle, we also have the popular modern day version from the BBC, Sherlock, as well as the alternate-universe TV series, Elementary, which is a “what-if” spin-off that takes the basic premise and turns it inside out: what if Holmes was a recovering drug addict and Dr. Watson was a his female sobriety companion? 

Then there are the TV shows that don’t actually feature Sherlock Holmes by name, but are not so subtle homages to the character. The Mentalist, House, and Monk all feature main characters who make seemingly uncanny deductions to solve mysteries.

Derivative works can be found in the literary world as well. Laurie R. King and Carol Nelson Douglas have both written spin-offs. The Brothers of Baker Street is another modern-day mystery series featuring two brothers who work at a modern office at 221b Baker Street and become embroiled in mysteries. There are books about young Sherlock as well as a new novel, a continuation of the Holmes stories, which was authorized by Doyle’s estate.

Why do we love Sherlock so much? I think it comes down to two essential elements:

First, we’re fascinated by the character. “Brainy is the new sexy,” says Irene Adler in Sherlock, but I don’t think there’s really anything new about smart being sexy. I think readers and viewers have always been attracted to intelligent characters. Sherlock himself is a puzzle. We want to figure him out.

Secondly, we love a mystery. The mental challenge—the game of wits—draws us in. Can we sort the clues from the red herrings as cleveryly as Holmes?

I know there are other reasons Sherlock continues to fascinate. What are they? And I’d love to hear which is your favorite Sherlock story or spin-off.

Sara Rosett writes a cozy mystery series (Ellie Avery series) and a suspense series with a dash of
romance (On the Run series). As a military spouse Sara has moved around the country (frequently!) and traveled internationally, which inspired her latest suspense series. Publishers Weekly called Sara’s books, "satisfying," "well-executed," and "sparkling."

Sara loves all things bookish, considers dark chocolate a daily requirement, and is on a quest for the best bruschetta. Connect with Sara at or sign up for her newsletter list here. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Goodreads.


  1. I'll add THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS, a wonderful movie starring George C. Scott as a man who thinks he's Sherlock and Joanne Woodward as his psychologist, Dr. Watson. The twist is when Watson joins Holmes in his fantasy. Loved it.

    1. Sounds intriguing, Betsy. I've heard of it, but never watched it. I'll have to see it now. :)

  2. Sara,
    I love both "Sherlock" and "Elementary" and haven't missed an episode of either yet. Mysteries have always been one of my favorite genres, and anytime there's a character in a film or novel who is especially perceptive, I'm reminded of Holmes. Along with "The Mentalist," the short-lived TV show "Lie to Me" was also good.

  3. I'm catching up on episodes of Elementary--enjoying the evolving relationship between Holmes and Watson. It's nice to see Watson do more than absorb Holmes' genius. :)