The Canary Trainer, by Nicholas Meyer

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The Canary Trainer, by Nicholas Meyer

Post  HDKingsbury on Mon Oct 12, 2009 3:22 pm

The Canary Trainer, by Nicholas Meyer



First let me say that this is not so much a PotO story as it is a Holmesian story, or pastiche. Authors have been writing Sherlock Holmes pastiches – short stories and novels purporting to be “lost” cases of The Great Detective – and parodies since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle last lay down his pen, and probably before! Even such luminaries as Mark Twain tried their hand at it! So when you go to read The Canary Trainer, this is something you should keep in mind. Also, if you are not a regular Sherlockian, some of the references in the story, even with the explanatory footnotes, might not mean much to the reader. So, if you haven’t read this book and are planning on doing so – you’ve been warned!

I have to confess that I have a great fondness for Mr. Meyer’s Holmesian novels. He wrote three of them – The Seven Per-Cent Solution, The West End Horror, and The Canary Trainer – and all three are in my Baker Street library. Yes, I’m as avid a Sherlockian as I am a Phantom phanatic, and for a short time even belonged to the local chapter of The Baker Street Irregulars. (Think of the BSI’s as the Holmesian versions of phangirls and boys.)

I was introduced to Holmes back in 1974 when Meyer wrote his first novel, The Seven Per-Cent Solution, and to this day believe that Holmes never really fought Prof. Moriarty by the Reichenbach Falls, but was in Vienna with Sigmund Freud getting cured of his cocaine addiction. I also pictured Holmes as looking like Nicol Williamson for many year, until Jeremy Brett came along and threw all other Holmes's out the window. But that’s another story altogether. Anyway, suffice it to say that I like Meyer’s novels. Now, back to The Canary Trainer.

This story takes place during “The Great Hiatus” – those “missing” years when the world presumed Holmes was dead. But, of course, he wasn’t. Using the alias of Henrik Sigerson, Holmes was traveling the world and, being a world-class violinist, decided to try out for the orchestra of the Paris Opera while visiting that city. This is how he becomes involved in this case.

Holmes is approached by “the woman” – Irene Adler – who is an operatic singer from his past. Irene is concerned about young Christine Daaé. Joseph Buquet has been found dead after having been kicked out of Mlle. Daaé’s dressing room by an irate Vicomte de Chagny. Buquet, it seems, was infatuated with Christine.

Ms. Adler, whose dressing room is next to Christine’s, asks her one-time adversary to look after the young ingénue. Adler has befriended Christine. “She is quite an innocent,” says Irene. “Beautiful and simple – one might almost be tempted to say simple-minded!” Irene fears that Christine could be used by unscrupulous sorts, and she has little faith in Raoul’s ability to help, calling him “a mere puppy.” Irene has heard voices coming from Christine’s dressing room of late, and suggests to the detective that this has something to do with a person known as the phantom of the opera.

Meyer has made some changes to the overall plot, something I don’t hold against him. After all, which of us hasn’t done the same thing when writing our own PotO stories? He even addresses some of these changes in his notes at the end of the story. The main thing that most PotO readers probably won’t like is that the phantom is relegated to a relatively minor role. We don’t even meet him until the last quarter of the book. This story focuses more on Holmes – how he goes about solving this particular mystery. The phantom isn’t even called Erik. (Shades of ALW?)

As a blend of Phantom and Holmes, it’s a pleasant enough diversion. Just keep telling yourself – this is a story about Sherlock Holmes and one of his many cases, not about the Phantom of the Opera. Oh, and the title? The Phantom is sometimes referred to as the canary trainer because of his ability to teach his little songbird (Christine) to sing.

HDKingsbury

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Re: The Canary Trainer, by Nicholas Meyer

Post  Riene on Tue Oct 13, 2009 2:39 am

I pounced on this book when I ran across it, being a devoted Holmes fan as well. I've not read it in years but recall enjoying the plot. Thanks for reminding me--I should go pull it off the shelves soon.

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Re: The Canary Trainer, by Nicholas Meyer

Post  HDKingsbury on Tue Oct 13, 2009 2:57 am

Several folks on my writers board disliked it very much. I think they were expecting something more...Phantomy. Maybe more like the '04 movie. (Yeah. Right.) Of course, I love Nicholas Meyer for introducing me to Holmes in the first place, so I have a soft spot in my heart for his pastiches.

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