I have been contemplating this with, shall we say, mixed feelings since I first stumbled across it on Amazon. I do not know just who the mysterious Mr. Leo Zanav is--er, besides a pseudonym, in all likelihood--but he apparently felt an urgent call to completely rewrite Arthur Conan Doyle. Why Mr. Zanav was waylaid by such an urge remains to be seen. It is, no doubt, a mystery worthy of Sherlock Holmes himself.
Allow me to invite you to share my pain.
9:13 The cover. Just...the cover. Is that supposed to be Holmes? If so, why does he look like a pouty adolescent playing dress-up in Count von Count's cape? Even Cumberbatch doesn't look like a pouty adolescent playing dress-up etc.
9:15 First line: "You have just returned from Afghanistan, I see." Not only are we not going to establish Watson's character (he's washed up! he's injured! his life is a mess!), but also we're going to mess with one of the most famous lines in detective fiction. Because "see" has one syllable and "perceive" has two.
9:19: Instead of delaying the explanation until chapter two, Zanav's Holmes immediately demystifies the Sherlock Scan. Let us pause for a moment to mourn the total erasure of Doyle's understanding of how to construct a plot.
9:23: Holmes on Watson's career trajectory: "I would certainly call such a career unsuccessful" (1). Watson's response: "'Right again," I said, experiencing for the first time the remarkable brains of the most extraordinary man I would ever know" (2). And so a beautiful friendship begins, based on...Watson's enthusiastic admiration for a man who insults the hell out of him.
Let us pause for a moment to mourn the total erasure of Doyle's understanding of characterization.
And we're only on page 2.
9:25: Why does Watson run into Stamford in a bookstore? Does the author have something against eating? Or drinking wine? Is this a teetotalized Study in Scarlet?
9:27: According to Zanav, the army is paying Watson a "generous" sum of "11 shillings." "Generous"? Ha. Ha. Ha. No, that wasn't. And this Watson doesn't have the original's problems with financial management.
So, Watson doesn't drink. And he's good at balancing the budget. I detect some hidden moralizing at work here.
9:31: On page 5, we circle back to the beginning. For no apparent reason, other than the author thought it would be fun to remind us that he rewrote the novel's most famous sentence.
9:34: Zanav has solved the Great Bull-Pup Mystery by deleting the bull-pup entirely. Poor...um...whatever that thing was.
And Watson wakes up "late" instead of at "ungodly hours." To recap: no drinking, no financial self-control issues, and nothing that looks even remotely like cursing. Still "lazy," though, so there's that.
9:37: For some reason, Zanav feels a need to inform us that Mrs. Hudson "included all meals in the price" (10). I suppose that's a necessary clarification--after all, given two Victorian bachelors' likely culinary skills, they would probably starve to death in no time flat otherwise.
9:40: Zanav works his magic eraser on some Victorian antisemitism.
9:41: The magic eraser also takes out the "slip-shod elderly woman."
9:43: You know, "logical man" (14) is not, in fact, a synonym for "logician."
9:43: Zanav replaces the references to the Atlantic Ocean and Niagara Falls with "oceans and waterfalls" (14)? Because...nobody has ever heard of the Atlantic Ocean and Niagara Falls? Because Atlantic and Niagara have too many syllables? Because Zanav doesn't like proper names beginning with "A" and "N"? Or is this book written for extraterrestrials unacquainted with Earth geography?
9:46: This paragraph is making me splutter incoherently all over the keyboard.
9:48: Moving on from the splutter-inducing paragraph, and determinedly ignoring Lestrade's exit from "fog" into being just "confused" (16), I stub my toe with great force upon Watson's conclusion that Holmes "seemed to have an over-inflated vision of himself" (16). Which, of course, is ever so much clearer than "he is certainly very conceited."
Wait. No. It isn't.
Is Zanav out to make Doyle look like Nabokov, or something?
9:52: Predictably, Zanav took fright at "ejaculated," and turned it into "said" (21). After all, the reader might get...ideas.
(Remember: no drinking, good financial habits, nothing resembling naughty words, and now, nothing even vaguely reminiscent of--gulp--sex, even though no sex is actually involved.)
9:54: Um, dude, I know you're frantically rewriting anything that looks even vaguely unacceptable by modern standards, but "They are as jealous as a pair of professionals can be" (22) doesn't make any sense.
9:57: Zanav has eliminated all of the Gothic, horror-house-y imagery that Watson uses to describe Number 3, Lauriston Gardens. Excuse me while I RAGE.
I'm calm now.
9:59: Zanav doesn't like late-Victorian degeneration theory, either, if his rewriting of Enoch J. Drebber's appearance is any indication.
10:03: "I asked about that other guy, Stangerson" (28). Now that's what I call mastery of period style.
Excuse me a moment while I bang my head against the desk.
10:06: Holmes is "sensitive to flattery regarding his art" (36), but not " as sensitive to flattery on the score of his art as any girl could be of her beauty." Is Zanav trying to go all twenty-first century on us again, or is he actually freaked out by anything that suggests that Holmes is not a Real Manly Man?
10:09: Zanav continues anxious about Doyle's use of simian imagery to describe Drebber.
10:12: I wait with bated breath to see what Zanav does with "Old woman be damned!" Predictably, it becomes "Hardly an old woman!" (50) It seems to me that the "modern reader," who comes across stronger oaths on a regular basis, might be safely trusted with "damned."
This book is, like, more stereotypically Victorian than anything Victorian I've ever read.
10:16: Why does Drebber call Alice's mother "your old mother" (59) instead of "the old girl"? We're making Drebber more polite while he's trying to get an innocent maiden to abscond with him?
10:18: Zanav is so totally defeated by "the Boots" who shows Lestrade up at Halliday's Private Hotel that he just lets Lestrade wander around by himself.
10:20: Huh, I don't remember Watson thinking that he was "reluctant to perform the task" (68) of euthanizing Mrs. Hudson's terrier. Which is because Doyle's Watson makes it clear that the dog is very old, very ill, and very about to die. I guess the Easily Offended Modern and Young Reader will faint at the thought of one of Our Heroes putting a suffering dog to sleep. Or something.
10:24: And how is Zanav going to deal with the Dreaded Mormon Section?
10:25: Jefferson Hope is going to narrate the "Country of the Saints," which I suppose solves the question of "who the heck is narrating this thing, anyway?!"
10:26: So much for the sentimental picture of Lucy and John praying before their anticipated death.
10:27: John Ferrier's snark has been de-snarked.
10:28: Zanav is desperately trying to rescue this section by offering a historical explanation for polygamy.
10:29: HOLY HOMOPHOBIA BATMAN. Nope, not quoting this sentence. What the hey?!
10:31: More anti-Mormonism deleted.
10:33: All the nasty descriptions of Stangerson and Drebber have been deleted, making it unclear why John and/or Lucy find them so obnoxious.
10:36: For some reason, there's no mention of Drebber being amply consoled for Lucy's death by Ferrier's property. I mean, hey, he helped hunt her father to death, then forced her into marriage (and raped her), but...we can't mention that he profited by the transaction?
10:41: We're at the end now. Here's Doyle:
"Didn't I tell you so when we started?" cried Sherlock Holmes with a laugh. "That's the result of all our Study in Scarlet: to get them a testimonial!"
"Never mind," I answered, "I have all the facts in my journal, and the public shall know them. In the meantime you must make yourself contented by the consciousness of success, like the Roman miser—
"'Populus me sibilat, at mihi plaudo Ipse domi simul ac nummos contemplor in arca.'"
And here's Zanav:
"Never mind," I answered, "I have all the facts in my journal. I will publish the details of the case myself, and the public will know the truth."
Sherlock Holmes smiled and gave a quizzical half-smile, then looked at me with amusement. "In any case, Watson, you have turned out to be a prize flat-mate, I couldn't have asked for better" (117).
Because Holmes is just a cool backslapping dude, and we can't end the book without knowing that now he and Watson are going to be BFFs forever. Also, Latin is hard.