An Escapologist’s Diary. Part 35: Sherlock Holmes


My partner and I like to read to each other. She reads when her North American accent lends itself well to a story, and I read the silly English stuff.

Lately, I’ve handled the majority of the reading because we’ve been munching our way through the canon of Sherlock Holmes.

We recently passed the halfway point, a fact that leaves me slightly melancholy: what to do when it’s all over? Should we cut the remainder with Solar Pons to make it last longer?

Reading Holmes together is extremely entertaining and I can’t recommend it enough. If nothing else, you can have fun with your range of character voices. I challenge any man not to be seduced by my staccato ‘lady’ voice, and not to shrink into submission upon hearing my Terry Jones-style ‘harridan’ voice, used exclusively for elder housekeepers and Mrs Hudson.

My vocal showboating is sometimes punished: I’ll invest a character with an impressive but difficult-to-maintain accent only discover he has five pages of solid dialogue.

There are times when a reading becomes positively theatrical, such as when one Mr Cyril Overton punctuates his telling of The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter by repeatedly slapping his knee. I’ve also experimented with adding soundtracks in the form of ‘Victorian street noise’ and ‘crackling fireplace’ tracks from YouTube, though it tends to distract.

I’m the proud owner of the best Sherlock Holmes edition ever published, but it’s rather too bulky for cozy reading and the intriguing marginal notes compete with the story, so we’ve been using the lighter-weight versions for free from the library. Trips to the library to choose the next volume is part of the fun (only a fool would read them in order – start with Adventures and then Hound).

Holmes is riddled with jokes and uproarious humour. There are tropes that make us laugh because we’ve learned to recognize them as portentous. Our favourite is the hubris displayed by police officers, immediately plowed down by Holmes and followed by a sartorial insult from bitchy Watson. For example, this description of Lestrade:

The official detective was attired in a pea-jacket and cravat, which gave him a decidedly nautical appearance.

Out of context, this doesn’t sound like much but take it from me that it’s a bloody brilliant joke.

The stories are also told with howlingly wonderful innuendo, verging on a kind of polari. Holmes and Watson are clearly a couple: another good reason for reading this as a couple.

Why you might also like to take up reading the Sherlock Holmes books aloud:

– It’s free (and one should always be on the lookout for free hobbies);
– A completely ‘unplugged’ activity, it takes you away from the TV and computer screens (unless you choose to use an e-reader, in which case you lose again);
– A Holmes short story or a chapter from one of the novels fits neatly into an hour;
– It’s a communal event, prompting you to savour something together instead of in isolation;
– By the time you’re finished, you’ll be an expert on Sherlock Holmes and can kick arse in the quiz at your local Sherlock Holmes society;
– As an Escapologist, Holmes’ lifestyle can inspire you to live by your wits as he does.

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Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at

8 Responses to “An Escapologist’s Diary. Part 35: Sherlock Holmes”

  1. Spoonman says:

    What does it take to get a library card in Montreal? Do you have to show a Canadian ID? Or are they happy with any form of identification?

  2. […] The New Escapologist […]

  3. For a public library, you have to live in the city. Usually, you have to show ID (though not necessarily Canadian, I don’t think) and proof of address (utility bill or similar).

    The BANQ is the best library in town and it’s a national library, so you probably don’t have to be local to get membership there. You’ll still need ID and proof of address though. Check their website.

  4. Briony says:

    Try the Raffles stories? They smell of Sherlock and I recall vaguely that Hornung was related somehow to Conan Doyle. Raffles is excellent fodder for escapologists, having decided to “live by his wits”.

    We read aloud to each other (with and without children), and it is a skill which needs regular practise as well as being a free and portable pleasure.

  5. Good call. I know about Raffles but never read him. Sounds fun. I’ll take a look.

  6. Free and portable pleasure is right! It’s wonderful. And one does get better with time too.

  7. Rachel says:

    Sorry but I’m currently reading Sherlock on my tablet 🙂 but….I downloaded all of the Sherlock books (plus all the other Arthur Conan Doyle) plus over 400 other classic books that I’ve always ‘meant to read’ and never gotten around to, completely free from

    Now I take the tablet everywhere with me, along with the more than 700 books it now holds (all downloaded for free) and I read on the bus, on the skytrain, in coffee shops, in taxis (I live in Bangkok – they’re a dollar a ride 🙂 and can’t believe how many books I’ve had time to read — read 47 books since the beginning of the year and still going strong.

    BTW, love your blog – just stumbled across it from a video from ClickClackGorilla.

    I’m also an ‘escapologist’, having escaped the rat race of the US more than 10 years ago, and lived in Bangkok, Thailand ever since. Would not be forced back to America or to the life I had if my life depended on it. Highly recommend ‘escaping’ to everyone.

    And how do I currently spend my days? A couple of hours ‘working’ writing for various websites I own then, at the moment, the rest of the time I cook, read, hang out with friends and play computer games. Loving life? Yep. 🙂

  8. Hi Rachel. Welcome! I’ve heard good things about Bangkok. My friend T just got back from there and shared his travel journal with me. It looks amazing. Your post-escape life looks nice too. If you ever feel like writing about it, feel free to send it in.

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