Lit Crit

Literary Criticism
based on sound engineering principles

Opened 11 June 2024

Back to Home Page

To my way of thinking, the reading of fiction is much enhanced if you keep an eye open for puzzles, inconsistencies, and cryptic references. A brilliant set of books on this subject was written by Professor John Sutherland. I have them all and prize them highly.

The observations here are all my own and in no way derived from Professor Sutherland's books.


It's worth pointing out that no-one reads Sherlock Holmes for lessons in deduction, induction, and general logical thinking.
Conan Doyle did not take the stories very seriously, and many of the plots have more holes than a swiss cheese. There is quite a collection of commentaries that point out the flaws; it is customary to ascribe them to Watson's illegible handwriting.

Apart from logical flaws, there are simple inconsistencies everywhere, which have also been listed by many commentators. One example:

The Affair of the Bruce-Partington Plans
In this story, brother Mycroft tells Holmes "Its importance can hardly be exaggerated!"
But while Mycroft may be a central figure in the British government, he is apparently unable to arrange for a simple search-warrant, so Holmes and Watson have to go burgling a spy's house, with the clear implication they will be locked up if caught by the police.

Watson: "Could we not get a warrant and legalize it?"
Holmes: "Hardly on the evidence."

That makes little sense. What we do read Sherlock Holmes for is the atmosphere and the well-crafted dialogue.


The author C P Snow was a physical chemist, novelist, and Civil Servant. His best-known books are the Strangers & Brothers sequence.

Strangers & Brothers: the characters and their originals

Other Snow novels: the characters and their originals

A Puzzling Affair: Queries over The Affair


Alms For Oblivion: the characters and their originals


Cecil William Mercer, 1885 - 1960) used the pen name Dornford Yates to write humourous and thriller novels that were highly successful between the two World Wars. The characters and their originals

The Legal Puzzles of Dornford Yates

Finances of Vermin

Puzzles of Vermin Updated 25 June 2024

The Medical Puzzles of Dornford Yates


Dornford Yates and other authors
SPOILER RED ALERT: The plot of one of Anthony Berkely's books The Silk Stocking Murders is given away on this page.
You really should read this book before hitting the link; it is probably his best.

Back to Home Page