I Love a Mystery. . .
The brilliant detective observes the scene of the
crime. He--or sometimes she--considers the clues.
What explains all of them and doesn't violate any?
That, and only that, must be the solution, no matter
The quintessential detective is Sherlock Holmes, created over a
century ago by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He's appeared in various
guises down through the years--deerstalker hat, meerschaum
pipe, clear deductive logic and friend Watson. Of course, Jeremy
Brett was the real one for me--but most of you won't even
I've enjoyed almost all of them, from the retired beekeeping Mr.
Holmes of Ian McKellen to today's versions with Benedict
Cumberbatch, Robert Downey, Jr., and Jonny Lee Miller.
Every age seems to have its own, and today's Holmes is Benedict
Cumberbatch, who with Martin Freeman as Dr. John Watson is
seen above against a suitably atmospheric London skyline.
Rupert Graves is Inspector Lestrade on the BBC series Sherlock.
A particularly delightful feature of the Cumberbatch series is
Watson's online diary, which he begins to cope with PTSD on his
return from Afghanistan, but ends up using to try understand his
peculiar flatmate. I couldn't put it down.
And Jonny Lee Miller brought two of my favorite universes crashing
together--or into harmony--when I realized that he was playing
Sherlock to Lucy Lui's Watson and had also played Byron in the
BBC movie of that name that I'd watched online. I love the BBC.
This fall I've been reading two series of mysteries by a couple of
excellent women writers--Edith Pargeter and P.D. James. Pargeter,
writing under the pen name of Ellis Peters, wrote 20 tales of the 12th
century Benedictine monk, Brother Cadfael of the monastery of St.
Peter and St. Paul in Shrewsbury, before her death in 1995. As I read
her stories, I pictured Cadfael as Derek Jacobi (left) who portrayed
him in the BBC series.
Benedict Cumberbatch (left) and Martin Freeman from
Sherlock. Jonny Lee Miller (above) and Lucy Liu in
Another detective I've been enjoying on TV this fall is House
M.D. in reruns on Netflix. The character of House is based
on Sherlock Holmes, with his friend Wilson based on
Both House and Holmes solve mysteries and fight killers
using deductive reasoning. "Eliminate all other factors and
the one which remains must be the truth," as Holmes points
out, and as House demonstrates with his unending lists of
symptoms and possible diseases on his whiteboard.
Both are coldly scientific, arrogant, languid and aloof. Both
enjoy music--Holmes plays the violin; House, the piano.
Holmes takes cocaine; House, vicodin.
Holmes' partner was wounded in the leg; House himself
suffers from a leg wound.
In addition to seeing House as a detective, I've been able to
visualize some of my own experiences in the show. Having
had a series of seizures, it's been interesting to see them
from the outside. Also, I see that medicine often is a matter
of trial and error--especially dosages. If one pill is too little
and three are too many, maybe two will be just right.
The real appeal of the fictional detective is that every
problem has its solution, every disease its cure. The
detective brings a sense of order to a disordered world, a
sense that we really are in control--able to figure out the
ultimate problems that confront us--despite our increasing
certainty that all we can finally do in the face of pain and
death is hope and trust in someone greater than ourselves.
Brett (above) and