“When you get tired of London, you get tired of life, because London has everything to offer,” is the quote from the poet Samuel Johnson. Walking through the streets of the English metropolis, it is easy to see why. Especially in those corners that retain a halo of cinematographic or literary mystery, such as the route holmesiana that covers some emblematic places of the work of Arthur Conan Doyle about the most famous detective of all time, protagonist of four novels and 56 stories. From the Langham Hotel where the publication of The sign of the four to the Criterion theater and restaurant featured in study in scarletpassing through Oxford Street, Trafalgar Square, the Café Royal, the Continental Hotel and the Ateneo Club, the maximum expression of London bohemian life.
Through these places and through the rooms of the Sherlock Holmes Museum, located at 221B Baker Street -once a bank branch overflowing with letters addressed to the fictitious investigator-, we travel with Arturo Perez-Reverte to find out what’s behind his new novel, the ultimate problem (Alfaguara), published this September 5. In it, the 72-year-old journalist and writer revisits his childhood readings in his grandparents’ library; entire afternoons immersed in the enigmas devised by Edgar Allan Poe, Agatha Christie and of course Conan Doyle.
“It is not a detective novel or a crime novel to use, but a novel-problem like those of the 30s”, clarifies Pérez-Reverte. From this subgenre, forgotten for decades due to the proliferation of works with a taste for criminal psychology, emphasizes that it does not matter so much who the murderer is as how the murder was carried out. “Conan Doyle elevated to the rank of bestseller their cerebral, intellectual stories, without guts or blood on the walls. And I wanted to see if a 21st century reader was capable of enjoying a real problem novel”.
The book does not lack explicit references and veiled winks to films and novels from the early 20th century -some of them in the form of trompe l’oeil- nor mentions of classic actors such as Marlene Dietrich, Rita Hayworth, Cary Grant, Grace Kelly o John Wayne. Beginning with the protagonist, Ormond Basil, a transcript of Basil Rathbone, who gave Holmes a face, voice and gestures in the 15 cases released on the big screen between 1939 and 1946. “All the gossip and anecdotes I tell about Hollywood are true, although Not all of them were lived by Basil. Creating an apocryphal Basil allowed me to attribute them to him and suspend, for moments, the reader’s disbelief,” says Reverte.
The writer explains that he has started from the narrative canon and has “consciously and joyfully plundered” the tricks of the detective novel masters to include them in his pages. “Build this novel It has taught me how much I had forgotten. When you read when you’re young, there are things that mark you, and I haven’t been so aware of it until now.”