What Sherlock Holmes means to…

Winner of this week’s contest on “What Sherlock Holmes means to me” is Elizabeth Burden. Elizabeth Burden was introduced to Sherlock Holmes at 12 when her father began reading the ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’ out loud to her at bedtime: she retrieved it after her parents went to bed and stayed up all night to finish it.   She lives in DC, although in London she used to walk past Baker Street and feel as if she was passing the house of an old childhood friend.  Here is her essay:

Sherlock Holmes was my first great love.

It was incredibly disappointing to realize that he was actually a century older than I was and fictional to boot – my parents would not have approved – but it hardly cooled the flames of my passion. Of course, I was only 12 at the time, but some loyalties never die, and mine was to this detective.  From then on, the idea of bothering to marry anyone who wasn’t at the very least British and a violin player seemed like a complete waste of time.

I never did manage to get his attention – Holmes (I never could call him Sherlock, despite our two decades of acquaintance) never returned my affections. I did send him a letter back in the day when it still involved three stamps and onion skin airmail paper (technically the paper was for effect, but I felt he wouldn’t bother opening it unless I scented it with perfume and didn’t mention my name – why even bother, he would clearly know it was me).  I spent a significant number of hours worrying that my handwriting wouldn’t provoke him to say, “I perceive you’ve been in India recently” – since, being 12, I hadn’t.  I did include one hair from our Britney Spaniel and a small smear of mud (fountain ink is hard to obtain on an allowance) to throw him off the track – or at the very least, to prove that I too was an animal lover (although the Britney Spaniel was chosen deliberately for its lack of resemblance to any kind of hound, painted in phosphorescent, moor-dwelling or otherwise).

When Mary Russell entered the picture – both of us 15 at the time – I tolerated her presence in Holmes’ life with the kind of distain generally reserved for ex-husband’s second wives.  However, I’ve softened towards her over the years. In fact, when she was kidnapped, I may have cried out loud and skipped to the end to check on her. So two decades after I first met Holmes, as enduring as the passion was, I feel it’s time to finally extend the olive branch and invite them both to dinner. Perhaps I have some onion skin paper left.


Just to recap the winners of the last four of our Twenty Weeks of Buzz: on Dec 27, an ARC went to Joe Pace.  Since then, copies of  “A Venomous Death” have gone to Donna Swedberg, Susan Rosegrant, and Laura McIntre from the newsletter list, and Kathe Riehl, Jan Collins, and Nicole Nelson over at Goodreads.  Newsletter winners are chosen from the names of those who open the newsletter (like Santa Claus, Mailchimp knows!)  The next ARC drawing will be January 27, so sign up now, if you haven’t already.


And if you’ve been wrestling with this week’s puzzle and could use some hints, here is the puzzle with clues . Answers will be given Sunday, so get your entries in!


  1. LaideeMarjorie on January 21, 2010 at 8:33 am

    Brava, Elizabeth Burden. Lovely.

  2. strawberry curls on January 21, 2010 at 9:30 am

    Congratulations, Elizabeth. I’m sure Holmes would be proud! This was charming and a pleasure to read.


  3. Roxanne on January 21, 2010 at 10:13 am

    Oh, man, Elizabeth, your essay is just wonderful! I loved reading it. After I click ‘submit,’ I’m going to go back and read it again … a few times …

  4. Merrily on January 22, 2010 at 7:32 am

    This was beautiful and really resonated with me as I was introduced to Holmes at roughly the same age, also by my father. I still have, much worn, the “Complete Sherlock Holmes” he gave me later, for my 16th birthday. Even our restrained and un-emotive Holmes would be touched by this tribute, I think!

  5. Laraine on January 22, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    Such a lovely and resonant essay, Elizabeth. Thanks, Laurie and Elizabeth, for sharing this with us. Holmes truly was the George Clooney of our younger lives (or, the Robert Downey, Jr.).

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