Most consoling of literary icons

That is what Dinah Birch calls Sherlock Homes while  reviewing two recent biographies of his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle (link via A&L Daily):

It is odd that so much comfort is to be had from Sherlock Holmes, given the brutal violence of his adventures. Not only are those who cross his path routinely shot, bludgeoned, or knifed, they run the risk of being starved, buried alive, attacked by huge and frenzied hounds, killed by horses, jellyfish, or venomous snakes, asphyxiated with toxic vapours, afflicted with foul diseases, or crushed in giant iron presses. They might lose a thumb or an ear; occasionally they lose their minds. Yet Holmes is the most consoling of literary icons. He cannot always prevent crime or punish the criminal, but he never fails to explain what has happened, and how, and why. The prosaic Watson likes to claim that his hero is infallible because he scorns the emotional baggage that befuddles the judgement of lesser men. In fact these stories are tense with feeling, for Holmes’s hatred of wrongdoing is a passion rather than an intellectual commitment.

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