Sherlock Holmes is perhaps the most curious character in all of literature. By curious I don’t mean strange, although he certainly is eccentric; I refer to his voracious appetite for understanding how humanity and the world interact with each other. He observes, induces, then deduces, putting all of the facts together in ways even today’s reader doesn’t “get” until he enlightens us. Like his biographer the dense Dr. Watson, we too wait to be enlightened by the Master about the enigmatic mysteries the great detective investigates.
Although it has been 130 years since his creation, and though the detective mystery genre is overrun with popular stories featuring their lovable or quirky detectives, Holmes remains the king. Why? While we might not actually enjoy knowing him personally, his pure ability to reason, to sort out truth from falsehood and genuine clues from red herrings, remains the pinnacle of the art form. If “imitation is the highest form of flattery,” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle must be the most admired author of all time: not only has the genre bloomed since the creation of Holmes, but Holmes himself has been remade in story, tv, and movies.
Why? In spite of his calculating and rather cold personality, Holmes’s brilliance is what most of us wish our own intelligence to be. We don’t want to only be a logic machine: instead, Doyle somehow has us imagine incorporating Holmes’s gifts into our own personalities. This is the genius of the creation of Sherlock Holmes.