Unlocking Sherlock

I used to attend a homeschool co-op. My teacher gave us these little surveys to fill out on each subject. I was going through my old school papers and found this;

If you can’t read my tenth grade handwriting it says;

The most important event in all of world history is when to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle sat all alone in his small optometry office and first thought of Sherlock Holmes (or, at the time, Sherrinford Holmes.)

To which my teacher replied;

You might be a little obsessed 🙂

The same teacher gave me a very fancy copy of the Complete Sherlock Holmes as a graduation present.

It is safe to assume from what you have read, that I am completely in love with Sherlock Holmes.

However, the problem with loving classic literature means that it is probable that your favorite author has long been retired. Meaning that the 56 short stories and the four novels that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote about Sherlock are all I am ever going to get from him. 

And that is why I picked up Lock and Key by Ridley Pearson. 

The book had been sitting on the living room bookshelf for about two years…my mistake. I finally picked it up. To be perfectly honest, the back cover synopsis of the book did not truly reflect what the book actually was.

My first impression of its description led me to believe it was set in Victorian London, told from the perspective of Moriarty’s brother. If you have read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Final Problem, you would know that Dr. John Watson tells us a little about Moriarty’s brother. 

But this is not the case. From reading Lock and Key, I deduce that Ridley Pearson is not a true Sherlockian. I can tell he has not studied the as books intimately as I have nor has an all consuming love for all things Doyle as I do.

However, that does not mean the book itself is bad.

The Lock and Key series is based on the modernization of Sherlock Holmes in his youth. The main idea Pearson has however is not about Sherlock. It is based on Sherlock’s arch enemy, James Moriarty and told from the perspective of his sister.

Before I get too far into the characters or plot, I first want to address the use of “modernization.” 

I know most classic lit lovers shy away from the word as if it were a rattlesnake. And I totally understand that. It is a risky move to take. Personally though, I usually enjoy modernization tropes. BBC Sherlock is my favorite TV show and it literally seems to pluck Sherlock & Co. from the Victorian era into modern day society. 

While Ridley Pearson does not execute this idea as well as BBC Sherlock does, I am of the opinion that he does it well enough.

The main characters are of course Sherlock Holmes and James Moriarty, and they are accompanied by James’s little sister, Moria. 

Original characters (OCs) can be another risk to put in a retelling. I often times enjoy OCs but I am also their harshest critic. Moria Moriarty is…an okay OC. But I feel that the story Ridley Pearson created could have been told without her. 

And there is the issue of her name…Moria. 

Parents don’t just go from naming their first kid James and then their second Moria. James is a common name and Moria obviously is not. In BBC Sherlock there is an OC named Eros who is Sherlock’s sister. But her name is perfectly fine. We got Mycroft and Sherlock, some weirdo names, and Eros fits in perfectly. Moria, however, sticks out from James like a sore thumb.

However I do commend Pearson for making Moria a good narrator but also a distinct side character. She isn’t as logical as Sherlock nor as intelligent as James. But she does own her own skill sets, such as her curiosity.

When I first read Pearson’s description of Sherlock, I laughed out loud because he totally watches the BBC show…I mean, shocking blue eyes, high cheek bones, pale skin…? Sorry, that isn’t Sherlock, that is Benedict Cumberbatch.

I enjoy Pearson’s young Sherlock over the young Sherlock in the movie Young Sherlock Holmes. One fact that many people don’t know is that Sherlock isn’t Spock. He’s not a Vulcan nor a computer. While Sherlock may call love “human error” or show contempt at sentiment, he does not remain immune to human feeling. Pearson recognizes this and allows Sherlock the freedom to laugh, joke, and tease as he pleases. Except when he gets “in the zone.” When Sherlock is in the heat of deduction, solving a problem, or thinking around a situation, he does not revert to his human whims. 

I understand that it is hard to nail James Moriarty’s character on the head. We get little dialogue from him in The Final Problem and soon after, bye, bye, Jimmie. There are many different takes on Moriarty, and Pearson’s own works.

It isn’t spectacular, but it works. 

James is changeable. He has a moral compass and he knows what is right but he puts more stock into power and what he wants. Throughout the series he switches between being on the enemy’s side and being on Sherlock’s side. 

From the very beginning, he does not want to be Sherlock’s friend. They are roommates together at Baskerville Academy and while Sherlock attempts a companionship with James, the latter blatantly refuses the offer. Later, James does admit that he and Sherlock are friends. And still later, they become sworn enemies.

I wasn’t especially into the plot…secret societies have never really been my thing. And I don’t think it went entirely well with Sherlock and James as a whole. However, the scenes and situations in themselves where perfect. Pearson only needed a different overall concept. 

What kept me reading was the one liners, the quips that Sherlock made passive aggressively to tell James how stupid he was. Or James calling Sherlock “Sherlost.” And all the banter…priceless.

My biggest disappointment was the exclusion of any other canon characters. The only attachment to Doyle’s original books where Sherlock and James. No John Watson, no Irene Adler, no Henry Knight, no Dr. Mortimer, no Sebastian Moran…none of them were included! 

I kept turning pages hoping John would come in as a new exchange student in Baskerville Academy, or something…but no!

Mycroft was mentioned ONCE. Sherlock names him as his older brother who has been his legal guardian since their parents died.

I did hope that Mycroft might come in when Sherlock got expelled from Baskerville. I mean, Mycroft would be MAD. He’d be furious with his little brother for getting kicked out of an expensive prep school. But he doesn’t even cameo.

And when Sherlock is supposed to be in London but actually stays in Boston? Sherlock never says how he did that. Because if I know Mycroft Holmes, he would be after his brother like the Hound of the Baskervilles. I mean, that is Mycroft, an overly protective, condescending big brother. But no, Sherlock doesn’t even say he tricked Mycroft into letting him stay in Boston.

All in all, the series is worth a read if you just need more Sherlock. I certainly did. And if you aren’t a huge Sherlockian, you might enjoy the series. But it could have been better if Pearson had done a bit more research or loved the original stories a bit more. 

Published by

Scarlett Mc.

Writer, artist, designer, and bibliophile. Works part time at an antique store, part time at her own business, Books of Art. Currently working on her first novel.

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