The Great Hiatus of Holmes’ life has always been a source of endless speculation, and inspiration to authors. “The Canary Trainer ” by Nicholas Meyer (published as ‘a lost manuscript by John H. Watson, M.D.’) is third in the series of his books explaining the absence of Holmes from his homeland.
Following his “adventure” with Dr. Freud (more about it later), Sherlock Holmes finds himself on a sabbatical in Paris. There a curious incident at the Grand Opera allows him to fulfill one of his dreams, working as a professional violinist. He is just getting used to the curious culture of the Opera, and the conductor Gaston Leroux, when Irene Adler arrives to take the place of an ill prima donna.
Irene Adler recognizes Holmes in his guise as the Swedish violinist Sigerson, and gives him 2 choices: she can disclose Holmes’ identity, thereby ending his vacation, or he can help protect her friend, the young coloratura Christina Daaè.
It seems the “ghost” who everybody knows lives in the opera (and blackmails the managers into giving him monthly allowance) has taken a liking for the young singer. He trains her as a voice in the walls, and acts as her mentor. But when the new managers stop listening to the Ghost’s warnings and when his love starts endangering the lives of people, including Christina, Holmes has to step in and face The Ghost of The Opera.
Most of you must, by this time, know where the story is coming from. But the insertion of Holmes lore into a story from a completely different genre is almost seamless. None of the characters or events seem out of the line for either stories. There are many tantalizing clues as to what Holmes feels about Irene Adler (although he is mostly clueless about him), and even that does not seem completely out of character.
Perhaps that is due to the entire tone of the series. While the world is thinking that Holmes died at Reichenbachfall, the series starts with giving a completely different explanation for his disappearance. Holmes is much more human in the series, yet keeps his superhuman skills. His sojourn in Paris starts with anonymity, which he enjoys, maybe a bit too much. So much so that he allows Irene Adler to blackmail him, but that may also be due to his ability to refuse an interesting puzzle.
The book is mostly a tussle between his two great talents: as a violinist and as The Detective, and he seems sad with the outcome. We get a much deeper insight into his psyche, because the story is narrated by him during his time at Wessex, and Watson’s role is just writing it down (err, the remembering it and dictating it in his old age home). Which is why it differentiates from the stories in the canon which are narrated by Holmes in a clinical, detached manner. That’s what makes it an interesting tale.
Quote of The Day:
… it now occurred to me that the place I should like to visit was Paris, a city I scarcely knew, which was ironic, as I am of French descent.
– Sherlock Holmes, The Canary Trainer