Book Review: Investigating Sherlock – The Unofficial Guide by Nikki Stafford

Reviewed by Maria

Nikki Stafford’s book is a little treasure chest filled with bits of information which will make any Sherlock BBC fan smile.

Since the airing of Sherlock BBC, Tumblr and other internet platforms have been rife with discussions about the actors, characters, Canon- and pop-culture references, artistic and directorial choices as well as interpretations and predictions concerning future episodes. Nikki Stafford’s Investigating Sherlock comprises all of these elements. A veteran unofficial guide writer (Stafford wrote extensively about Lost, Buffy and Xena and more), the author takes on Sherlock an episode at the time. The first part of the book (which sadly lacks a table of contents) consist of short biographies and background info on the careers of Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch, as well as Arthur Conan Doyle and the Sherlock Holmes Canon.

Each episode of Sherlock (including a short discussion of Many Happy Returns) is quickly summarised, ending with a personal HIGHLIGHT of Stafford’s – a quote or moment from the episode – followed by a section called: DID YOU NOTICE?, which draws attention to trivia, amusing titbits and intertextual references to other literary works and pop culture.

The next part of each chapter, FROM ACD TO BBC, which is my favourite, painstakingly lists the references to the Canon and explains the context in the original Sherlock Holmes stories. While it might not catch every single hint and reference to Doyle’s work, it brilliantly shows just how closely linked Sherlock and the Canon are.

This section is followed by an INTERESTING FACTS list, which is very similar to the DID YOU NOTICE section, but which reveals more insider information on each episode – although, to be fair, some of the moments pointed out by Stafford are arguably interpretations, not facts. For instance, Stafford claims that John ‘clearly’ mistakes the lady who takes him to Battersea Power Station for Anthea, but there is absolutely no indication for that. We all know that John Watson will always do a double take on a beautiful woman and immediately hit on her – and that’s exactly what he does. He’s used to have ladies pick him up when Mycroft wants to see him, that’s why he’s disappointed and yet willing to get into the car when it drives up to him. However, most of the points made in this section are interesting and show again with how much love for detail the series is made.

The final two parts of each chapter are a NITPICKS and an OOPS. These two sections point out problems with continuity, technical issues or mistakes in the episodes. Again, not all of the ones listed seem to be real mistakes, like the official age of Connie Prince, which Stafford points out, changed from 48 on television to 54 in the morgue. I think it’s rather another hint at the eccentricities of Prince to lie about her age to the public, since she’s also using botox – and therefore a clue rather than a mistake. Stafford also finds it irritating that Sherlock doesn’t immediately figure out that 007 stands for Bond, ignoring that Sherlock’s lack in general (pop)culture knowledge is driving John up the wall and an issue much appreciated and celebrated in fandom. (But again, I am doing the nit-picking here, most of the issues Stafford catches are quite amusing).

Between the chapters we find interviews with Holmes experts Chris Redmond and Charles Prepolec and a short discussion of the issue of Sherlock ‘sociopathy’.

While the internet has offered Sherlock fans a great platform to discuss meta and engage in detailed discussions about the series, Investigating Sherlock is a lovely companion to the show and I enjoyed reading it immensely. Those who already know a lot about Sherlock will enjoy delving back into the episodes and those who have watched but not engaged in meta discussions, will find themselves amazed by the complexity and intertextuality of Sherlock.

Nikki Stafford’s Investigating Sherlock – The Unofficial Guide comes out on September 3 and will is available for pre-order on amazon uk, amazon com, amazon de, book depository and any good book store.