cover image Dangerous Work: Diary of an Arctic Adventure

Dangerous Work: Diary of an Arctic Adventure

Arthur Conan Doyle. Edited by Jon Lellenberg and Daniel Stashower. Univ. of Chicago, $35 (368p) ISBN 978-0-226-00905-6

Even if this diary of the 19th-century whaling ship Hope's Arctic exploits didn't come from Sherlock Holmes' creator, it would still make fascinating reading, especially for Patrick O'Brian fans. The editors provide a lucid introduction to a facsimile of the diary itself and Lellenberg's transcript of the text. Though Doyle, a medical student serving aboard as ship's doctor, was just 20 at the time, his gifts for writing and observation are already much in evidence, as when he observes "hillocks" of ice "rising and falling with the waves, pure white above and of a wonderful green below." Also included is Doyle's two-page listing of all the animals%E2%80%94from protozoa to right whales%E2%80%94he saw during the journey, which lasted from February through August 1880. Similar to Christopher Tolkien's work on his father's unpublished writings, this diary's publication adds both to the still-growing body of Doyle's early work and to our understanding of what made him tick. A Holmes story clearly influenced by the experience, "The Adventure of Black Peter," featuring a murder-by-harpoon, makes a nice extra. (Oct.)