“The Human Mystery” — Tanith Lee

Tanith Lee, a two-time winner of the World Fantasy Award, is the author of more than 100 books. These include The Piratica series, The Wolf Tower/Claidi Journals, and the Blood Opera series. Other novels include The Birthgrave (a finalist for the Nebula Award), and Death’s Master (winner of the British Fantasy Award). Her Flat Earth series is now being brought back into print, with two new volumes in the series on the way. Lee also has several new short stories forthcoming in various magazines and anthologies. Her most recent book is a new story collection, Tempting the Gods.

If you were to ask readers what makes Sherlock Holmes such an intriguing character, many people would probably answer that it’s what he knows—his encyclopedic knowledge of mud stains, handwriting, postmarks, poisons, etc. Holmes’s intellect is certainly captivating, and often we can only gape in awe, as Watson does, at the great detective’s recall of some obscure fact. Who doesn’t fantasize about having a mind so well honed? But when you think about it, what really makes Holmes so fascinating is not just what he knows, but also what he doesn’t know. A character who always knows everything would be a bit dull and predictable. Holmes is such a genius that it sometimes seems that he knows everything, but we often forget that Holmes is able to recall so much information relating to detective work because he has purposely remained ignorant about so much else. In “A Study in Scarlet,” Holmes claims not to know that the Earth orbits the sun, because that fact does not directly relate to solving crimes. Fascinating. Our next adventure, which involves a lady, a house, and a curse, takes Holmes deep into one of those territories about which he still has much to learn.