In 1920, a perplexed Watson shoulders burdens far heavier that those of confidant and chronicler as he sets out for the most outrageous Holmes adventure you never heard about:
“I dressed, shaved, fussed to no avail with my remaining hair, and made my final preparations for the two-hour journey to Eastbourne . . . I had reduced my office hours in the past years and watched as my patients cooperated to an unflattering extent, transferring their loyalties for my young partner and nephew, Ronald Ellison.”
Sherlock Holmes and the Remaining Improbable, from Susanne M. Dutton at Propertius Press and Amazon*
When Watson receives Holmes’ summons to Eastbourne just over a hundred years ago, he was 68. Stanford University’s research*, based on likelihood of death, suggests that for men the transition beyond middle age at that time was 44. After 44 you qualified as “old.” In 2021, that age is 60.
But that’s not all. Stanford included another transition. Watson would elevate himself from old to really “elderly” at age 55 in 1920. Today that point would be still ahead of him, at age 76.
The Game is not afoot. The Better-Every-Day world of 1895 is gone, even hard to recall, as WWI ends. Holmes fills out entry papers at the rundown Le Dieppe Clinic and Sanatorium on the Normandy coast. Confronted by a question as to his “treatment goal,” he hesitates, aware that his real goal far exceeds the capacity of any clinic. Like a tiny explosion unaccountably shifting a far-reaching landscape, the detective’s scribbled response churns desperate action and interlocking mystery into the lives of Holmes’ friends and enemies both.
Susanne Dutton is the one who hid during high school gym, produced an alternative newspaper and exchanged notes in Tolkien’s Elfish language with her few friends. While earning her B.A. in English, she drove a shabby Ford Falcon with a changing array of homemade bumper strips: Art for Art’s Sake, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Free Bosie from the Scorn of History. Later, her interests in myth and depth psychology led to graduate and postgraduate degrees in counseling.
Nowadays, having outlived her mortgage and her professional counseling life, she aims herself at her desk most days; where she tangles with whatever story she can’t get out of her head. Those stories tend to seat readers within pinching distance of her characters, who, like most of us, slide at times from real life to fantasy and back.
Susanne grew up in the SF Bay Area, has two grown children, and lives with her husband in an old Philadelphia house, built of the stones dug from the ground where it sits.