A GATHERING OF STRENGTH
…it will serve a useful purpose by restoring our courage and stimulating research in a new direction.
Holmes and Mary are now in Palestine. For no real reason. No, seriously – this is a chapter which ought to be titled ‘Holmes and Mary go on their hollp-hops!’. They go around Palestine, doing odd little things, before returning back to London at the end of the chapter. That’s it. It’s entirely pointless and slows down the plot of the novel. There’s only a hundred pages left, and we haven’t seen the villain once, and the author decides to stall the flow of narrative for … a holiday chapter. This really is bad fanfiction. King has decided to explore what Holmes would be like on holiday.
Mary is really happy to be in Palestine.
I had no doubt that some day (next year) I should make my pilgrimage to the birthplace of my people, but a pilgrimage is a planned and contemplated event of the mind and, perhaps, the heart, which this most emphatically was not.
Oh, so you’re claiming yourself as Jewish now? I see. And all that pork and other non-kosher foods you wolfed down, that’s A-OK. God will forgive Mary for not following the 4,000 year old traditions of her people. It is Mary after all!
Palestine, Israel, that most troubled of lands; robbed, raped, ravaged, revered.
Eurgh. That was ham-fisted. Really ham-fisted.
They sneak themselves into Palestine through two cunningly-disguised Oxford… Spies, who cannot be told part from native Arabs. Many problems with that. Holmes and Mary then do, as I said, nothing. It is just a holiday. They meet friends. They explore ruins. Mary narrowly avoids being raped in the marketplace, while Holmes looks on and only gives his help with ‘highly amused reluctance’.
Yeah. Rape is so, so funny, isn’t it.
I’d like to think that whirring noise is Conan Doyle spinning around furiously in his grave at the thought of his character being abused like this. (Even if he did hate the character by the end.)
This is not the place to burden the reader with a detailed (that is, book length) account of our expedition to Palestine.
As an aspiring writer, I can read the secret language of writers in this sentence. This translates to: I couldn’t be bothered to write about it right now. So why even include it? We get pages of summaries, of how Mary now feels much more Jewish, as if travelling to Israel has recharged her Jewish batteries, and that she and Holmes go skinnydipping. Which makes my skin crawl.
The only thing to do with the ongoing plot is Holmes and Mary’s symbolic chess game, where she is the queen and has to be the most important piece in all of this. She might fail, and she angsts about this. I have no idea why she is the only person in this book who can ‘solve’ everything. She is comforted by the fact that while Holmes protected Watson, he’s pushing her into the dangerous game.
It doesn’t sound comforting to me at all, other than the suggestion that Holmes is consciously throwing her to the wolves to die.
Anyway, Mary is smitten by how surprisingly kind he is, and the two curl up together under the stars.
They then visit a temple and sing some Hebrew songs.
Better let not any rabbis know you love to eat pork, Mary.