Posted by: Debrah Martin | April 28, 2014

DIY Detectives – the Sherlock Syndrome

So, I’ve been lazy. We’re all lazy from time to time, but I claim forgiveness because whilst I’ve been busy not blogging, I HAVE been busy writing and chapter 12 of ‘Patchwork Pieces’ – the sequel to ‘Patchwork Man’ is bubbling away…


The Patchwork People trilogy I’m working on at the moment – you’ll find a little bit on this on my website – is bringing me up against detective fiction in a whole new way. Developing the twists and turns of the intrigue and how they transform the characters over a longer story line is both exciting and frustrating. Exciting because I get to know my ‘people’ so much better. Frustrating because – dammit! There’s so much more to remember. For now though, I want to look at something far more specific. The Sherlock syndrome  – or the detective within all of us.


We all fancy ourselves better at solving the mystery than the next person – go on, admit it. We all claim to know ‘who dunnit’ on the TV shows (even if it’s after the event). How many people speculated rightly – or wrongly (of course, we’ll never know) – what happened to Sherlock after his contemporary ‘Reichenbach Falls’ when Moriarty committed suicide last year. The Sherlock series creators cleverly played on that with their spoof follow-up – which we fans all awaited with bated breath – and the playing out of the other character’s creative suppositions. They know people: they got inside their audiences heads and took it one stage further by publicly celebrating all our speculations – even the more lurid ones: Moriarty and Sherlock’s passionate kiss, which personally had me falling about. Love your sense of humor, Moffatt, Thompson and Gatiss! They let us play detective with them – such fun!

And that is what being a detective is all about – getting inside someone’s head to see how they have behaved. Fascinatingly enough, authors do it in reverse. They attempt to get inside their characters heads to work out how they will respond. Lily in Webs does a bit of both – but then she’s a clever kind of kid. And in case any of my Twitter followers are wondering about the ‘inappropriate mother’ tag – yes, she’s made up of a bit of both my daughters. Sassy, sharp, single-minded and a complete choca-holic.

So what is the Sherlock syndrome I’m banging on about?

Personified perhaps in some of the ‘shares’ that come up on Facebook from time to time – witticisms and home truths which everyone acknowledges and then spectacularly fail to follow though in their own life. The Sherlock Syndrome could surely be neatly defined by something like:

‘The ability to observe what others do wrong and then still do it anyway.’

Sherlock wouldn’t, of course. He would observe it, comment on it, ascribe it to the various culprits of it and then dissect how and why they did it. I suppose that makes my ‘Lily’ very Sherlock-like, and very ‘human’, both at the same time. She has the unerring ability to observe her fellows stupid, selfish and short-sighted behaviour; and then play on it. Her mother, and both ‘villains’ fall foul of this. She also fails to see how she herself behaves exactly like them by putting her blinkers on at precisely the moment she should take them off.  That is what we as ‘detectives’ do in our everyday lives as well as our Sherlock lives. We fail to see beyond, though or into people and their motives, or the actions we take which have ramifications far beyond the obvious. I guess that’s what makes writing novels so satisfying. You already know what your characters have missed and what that will mean to them. We get to play God as well as Sherlock – but that’s a whole other idea to play with …


Here’s Lily playing detective in Webs and seeing in, through and beyond. She’ll be doing a lot more of it in Magpies.


 Webs - front cover‘Lily’s diary, 13-4-2012: 

Friday the 13th : an auspicious day to start a diary, especially since I’ve found this cool poem and the best line ever in it.

‘Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.’ (1)

It is just exactly what I have: a box full of darkness, even though that sounds SO melodramatic, LOL. Friday the 13th is one of those dark days when anything could go wrong – and it did. Technically I suppose I should have recorded this entry as Saturday the 14th, but what the hell. Let’s just say life’s a bitch, and so is Melissa.

I’d thought it would be great to sleep over at hers whilst Mum went out with tasteless Ted – sorry Mum, but he is a dick. But Melissa went on and on about Sam all evening until I was sick of his name, and said so. Bad move! Then she stopped talking to me altogether – after she’d called me a badass bitch of course. So that put paid to my home comforts for the night. She’s got a swanky house and a king-size bed, unlike our two bed dollhouse. I was going to sleep on one side of the monster bed and she on the other – like lezzers, but Melezzer wasn’t going to share her bed with me after that!

Anyway, when I came home earlier than expected because the Melezzer, the Ice Maiden, had frozen me out, Mum wouldn’t stop stressing. We fall out all the time, and she’ll have got over it by next week, even if she is a cow to me in the meantime but Mum’s always so worried about how everything looks it doesn’t matter what I say. Weird really because she doesn’t even like Melezz much – says she’s a spoilt brat.

To begin with I couldn’t figure out why she was so unusually keen for me to stay over with her – until I found out she was on a date with toady Ted. They were probably going to do each other, and she wanted me out of the way whilst they did the deed – bless! When I got home it was plain they hadn’t got it on though because she was a sourpuss. She’d have been all guilty smiles if they had. Silence seemed the best course of action, so I avoided her. By the following day, there was something else, apart from sourpuss, in the air. She was hiding something. It didn’t take long for me to get it out of her – typical Mum; she was bursting to tell me really. She’d gone on an internet dating site, and what was worrying her most about it? Not whether it was a bad idea, but whether she looked hot.

Mum’s actually quite pretty, although she says she’s not. Of course we never quite see ourselves as everyone else does. It would be cool if we did. Sometimes when I look through a pile of photos I wonder how I can look so awful in them, especially those sickly-sweet posed portraits I’ve put up with since primary school. The only decent ones are the whole school shots where everyone has been piled up on tiers to fit in. Then you can spend hours finding other people who look more of a dork than you. Mum told me that in her day, because the camera was on a tripod and had to physically pan the 180 degrees to get everyone in, if there was no-one looking you could jump down one side and run round to the other to be in the photo twice; smiling one side, scowling the other – an alter ego. How cool! Nice and nasty: love and hate – it’s in all of us. That’s why Melezz and I will be friends again by next week. It’s the mix that makes an image into a real person – the light and the dark. Mum’s afraid of the dark side so she tries to pretend it’s not there, but it is, and it’s better to be aware and afraid, than unaware and dead! That’s why the box full of darkness is cool too. It’s what I have and she has – everyone has, if they could only see it…’

Notes: 1. ‘The Uses of Sorrow’ by Mary Oliver


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