D A Mishani is an Israeli crime writer, editor and literary scholar specializing in the history of detective fiction. His first detective novel, "The Missing File", was published in Hebrew in 2011. Translation rights for the novel, the first in a crime series featuring police inspector Avraham Avraham, were sold to more than 10 territories. D. A. Mishani lives with his wife and two children in Tel Aviv, and is currently writing the second novel in the series, "Possibility of violence". The Missing File is set in his home town of Holon, Israel.
After the publication of my novel, The Missing File, the first in a detective series featuring Israeli police inspector Avraham Avraham, I was asked by journalists from all over the world what detectives I enjoyed reading and why I am so suspicious of detective figures. This question was posed mainly because my protagonist, Inspector Avraham, spends his spare time reading detective novels and proving all literary detectives are wrong. When I answered, I liked many detectives, but exactly like my character was always suspicious of the solutions they offered, I was often asked: ‘Are you sure? And do you suspect even Sherlock Holmes?’
So I feel that the publication of The Missing File in Holmes's homeland (and in a publishing house situated on Baker street!) is the right time for me to confess this: I very much enjoy reading Sherlock Holmes's stories, and in fact I read them over and over again, but I don't believe a word Holmes is saying. I suspect his motives, I suspect his solutions, and I even think he is more involved in the crimes he is investigating than he is letting us know.
Consider his vacations, for example. Wherever he goes, a murder is committed! He lets us believe that he is in this crime-solving business because nobody else can do it but him and because without him society is forever blindfolded and lost. But is this really the case with Holmes?
Most readers are misled to think that the narrative structure of a classic detective story goes like this: in a peaceful environment, a murder takes place; then the detective appears to solve the mystery and serenity is once again restored. Well, Inspector Avraham and I discovered that with Holmes (and some other suspicious detectives); it does not work like that at all.
Read again The Adventure of the Devil's Foot, for example, and I grant you that you will be surprised. The Cornwall village in which the story takes place is indeed very peaceful but only until Holmes and Watson arrive there for vacation. And the murder occurs only after they arrive! Is it a mere coincidence? How can it be if this is also exactly the case in The Reigate Puzzle? Again, the Surrey village is serene, not until a murder takes place but until the detective arrives there for his vacation – and it is only afterwards that the hideous crime occurs.
And there is another thing we have recently noticed, me and Avraham. In both cases, and many more, Holmes is going for vacation because he needs some rest from his investigations. Watson believes him to be on the verge of physical and mental breakdown and this is why he takes him to a peaceful village where no crimes will ever occur. But then, of course, a murder is committed and Holmes is back to work again. He does not have any rest but in the conclusion of both stories, he has miraculously recovered. ‘I think our quiet rest in the country has been a distinct success’, he tells Watson in the last lines of The Reigate Puzzle, ‘and I shall certainly return much invigorated to Baker Street tomorrow’.
So is Holmes really weakened by his investigations or is he invigorated by them? And how is it that wherever he goes, even the most peaceful places in England, murder follows?
I will let you draw your own conclusions (I have mine) but nevertheless refer you to a passage from A Study in Scarlet. ‘There are no crimes and no criminals in these days,’ complains Holmes to Watson, not long after they meet. ‘What is the use of having brains in our profession? I know well that I have it in me to make my name famous.’
Might this be a clue to Holmes's true involvement in the crimes he is solving?
Might this imply that he is inciting the mysteries in order to spread his reputation? Or is it just me and my Inspector Avraham who are too suspicious, having read the stories too many times?