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SUMMER OF SHERLOCK: Entry no. 30

Username: disassembly_rsn
Type of work: fic
Category: gen
Title: Of Reading and Rubbers
Prompt(s) used: ANY; reading aloud to someone sick/injured/hospitalized
Rating: PG
Word count: 1614
Warnings: none
Notes/Acknowledgments: I plan to re-post this to AO3, DW, and LJ. The BBC's Sherlock is, sadly, not mine, nor is Agatha Christie's Cards on the Table.




"You've never heard of Agatha Christie? Come on, Sherlock, this time you're winding me up."

Sherlock shot John a look. He had brought along a pile of books - terrible waste of time, all fiction, and trashy-looking to boot - as requested by John. To be fair, Sherlock understood all about being bored, and even the specialized version of being-bored-in-hospital, but really, this stuff might cause brain damage. And John wanted him to help pass the time when he couldn't sleep by having Sherlock read some of it aloud.

"I can't believe this. She's one of the most famous writers in the English language Sherlock - very popular - and she's famous for writing murder mysteries, for Christ's sake."

Sherlock perked up a little at this.

"I'd've thought you'd've read some of her work in case some copycat decided to re-create one of her plots, if nothing else..."

"Fine, fine. What's her most famous story? Is it in here?"

John thoughtfully eyed Sherlock. "Well, now. I'd rather not pick that one -"

"Why not?"

"Because Murder on the Orient Express was made into a very good film back in the seventies, and we can watch that at home some evening. It's got Sean Connery in, you remember him. Hmm...same thing goes for And Then There Were None, except that's older and no Sean Connery. Let me think."

"Try not to strain yourself, John."

John glared half-heartedly at Sherlock, peered at the stack of somewhat ratty paperbacks supplied by Mrs Hudson, then said, "Fine. Grab that skinny blue one."

Sherlock complied. The cover was graced with a house of cards, behind which a face peered out, a handgun pointed at one cheekbone. "I thought you were keen on firearm safety, John?"

"The cover artist was an idiot, like someone else who shall remain nameless -"

Sherlock rolled his eyes. Really, scratch one's head once with a handgun and one never heard the end of it, apparently.

"- but the author isn't. You might like this one. It's the fantasy case of the detective in the story. He wanted a case just like this; he even described it in an earlier book..."

"Fine, he did it."

"No, Sherlock, he didn't do it." John paused, narrowing his eyes, then grinned a little. "Let's see if you can work out who did do it. He liked this case specifically because there's very little physical evidence -"

"There's always physical evidence."

"Not this time."

Sherlock sighed, stretched, and assumed an upright variation of his praying-to-the-ceiling pose. "Nonsense."

"You'll see, if you ever start reading the story."



Immediately they began running into difficulties.

"Wait, these drawings here are actually labelled as being a clue?"

"You can skip those."

"Not if they're evidence." Sherlock read the caption, flipped ahead to the next page, and read the matching caption. "Bridge score sheets, John?"

"They're from a game of bridge, played by the suspects later on in the book."

"Why are they at the beginning of the book, then?"

"I don't know, Sherlock. I suppose the publisher wanted to put all the illustrations at the beginning for some reason. Look, you don't actually need to read them -"

"Then why does it say they're evidence that helps to solve the mystery? Honestly, why does it say that anyway? Does this - Agatha Christie - think that evidence is wrapped up that way in real life?"

"They are evidence, but -"

"Make up your mind, John."

"Let me finish. They are evidence, in that they show you what was going on during the game -"

"Are they all from the same rubber? Ah, no, I see they're not."

John blinked. "You know how to play bridge?"

Sherlock huffed. "Mycroft plays. So does our mother, of course. One can't avoid a certain amount of exposure to the game."

John wisely let this pass. No good could come of bringing Mummy into this conversation at this time.

"Each score sheet is from a different hand -"

"Rubber."

"Each score sheet is from a different rubber of bridge and was kept by a different player, so that taken together you have some idea of what was going on throughout the evening -"

"Boring."

"- but if you can't follow the game through the score sheets, one of the characters describes the progress of the card game throughout the evening later on in the story."

"Why not show the score sheets at that point instead of here?"

"I said I don't know, Sherlock. Can we get on with reading the story?"



"I see that only half of the guests are being treated as suspects. Really, that's ridiculous. I don't see why a career of spying or police work or writing murder mysteries should eliminate someone as a suspect. This Poirot can't ever have known anybody like Mycroft. And he calls himself a detective?"

Sherlock saw John open his mouth, then shut it, before clearing his throat and saying mildly, "All right, fair enough, keep an open mind."

Hmm. "John?"

"Oh, nothing. I wouldn't want to bore you by over-explaining anything."

"John."

John smiled. "All right. The other three detectives are other regular series characters that Ms. Christie uses in other books. If you'd read some of her other work you'd already know that. I can tell you that you're wasting your time suspecting them in this book. Didn't you notice that they were all three at the same bridge table as Poirot all evening, so they can alibi each other? Anyway, the whole point of this story is that only the four people playing bridge in the room where the victim was sitting are suspects. I told you."



After a great deal of reading interlaced with snark, Sherlock stopped completely after reading Superintendent Battle's interview with Dr Roberts.

"Do you want to take a break? You've been at this for a long time; I really appreciate it."

Sherlock shook his head as he flipped back to the table of contents. "How many times is this scenario repeated?"

"Which scenario would that be?"

"Each of the four detectives questioning one of the suspects. I see that Poirot is about to question Roberts."

John closed his eyes, considering. "It isn't exactly repeated in the same way for any of them. Poirot's interviews with them are shown in full - he's the main character, after all - but Colonel Race barely appears in the story at all, and Mrs Oliver concentrates on Anne Meredith, the younger woman. Anyway, Mrs Oliver is a very different character to Poirot. She's not really an investigator; she's a writer."

"Is she Poirot's blogger?"

John giggled. Sherlock was glad to hear it, after what John had been through. He would have done much more than read aloud for a few hours to hear it, although it wouldn't do to say so.

"No, Sherlock. Flip to the copyright page - the book is much older than that."

Sherlock did so. "1936?" He sniffed. "Before the Internet, then. But she might have written stories based on his cases, I suppose."

"You've already seen what she is - a professional writer who thinks that creating mysteries from scratch gives her some insight into solving the real thing. She's a bit silly sometimes, but she also has some common sense. She knows him because they've met before, that's all. You'll see - well, probably not today, because it'll take a while to get to that part of the book, but later on, if you don't mind doing this again."

"I don't mind trying it as an experiment."

Sherlock took a drink of water, then resumed reading "Doctor Roberts (Continued)".

"Ah, a memory test." He glanced up at John. "That's why he's asking for a description of the room and contents. Roberts should have figured that out for himself."

Partway through Roberts' commentary detailing the various kinds of furniture at the murder scene, Sherlock broke off. "Please. He knows the names of all the types of furniture in the room? He's a doctor, not a furniture salesman."

"I know, I know. I don't know what half of it means myself, apart from being various kinds of antiques."

"I didn't say that I didn't know what it meant. It doesn't seem plausible that Roberts would know that."

Upon reaching Poirot's next question - asking Roberts to describe the hands of bridge played on the night of the murder, Sherlock stopped again, raising his eyebrows as he looked over at John. "I thought you said they'd be described properly, but this witness can barely remember any of them. Realistic, of course, but -"

"Next witness." John smiled into his own glass of water. "Poirot asks each of them the same two questions; they all give very different answers. My great-aunt - Granddad's sister - was very fond of this book; she liked the way it showed how different people could tell very different stories about the same thing."

"Hmm." Sherlock was thoughtful. "Perhaps Ms Christie is a better writer than I thought."



Mrs. Hudson has lent John her copy of the 1964 U.S. Dell Edition of Agatha Christie's Cards on the Table, which does indeed put the bridge scores at the front rather than at the point in the text when they are mentioned. The cover art is even sillier than I have described it here.

Comments

( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
apple_pathways
Aug. 30th, 2011 05:03 am (UTC)
Ok, listening to John Watson talk about Agatha Christie is pretty much porn to me! I am pretty much a lifelong fan of both Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie mysteries, and what I wouldn't give to have the two canons collide! (Just watching Sherlock and Poirot being smart and insufferable in the same room together while Watson and Captain Hastings cringe sympathetically in the background would be just delicious!)

Cards On the Table is a good one, but I must say Sherlock's observations about Dame Agatha's habits of description are spot-on! It always made me think people spent a lot more time talking about furniture back then. :P

Anyway, it's late and I'm rambling now. This story was delightful! And thanks for being so understanding about our almost missing it. It would have been a terrible shame indeed! :P
disassembly_rsn
Aug. 30th, 2011 07:27 am (UTC)
Re: Comment - Of Reading and Rubbers
Thank you for the kind words.

No problem about the fic having been overlooked at first.

Having a 21st-century Poirot meet Sherlock is a thought. I've seen that prompted elsewhere but never seen it filled.

I'm very fond of Cards on the Table, and by a startling coincidence the edition that Mrs H has loaned John is the one I have myself. I figured Mrs H having lived in the USA might let me get away with putting that one in.

Crud. If I could get the system to let me put in the picture of the cover art, I would. (Note: The story contains no handguns and no jewel thefts, despite the string of pearls draped along the bottom of the picture...)

I'm actually particularly fond of the gambit wherein Poirot questions all the suspects using the same two questions - describe the room in which the murder took place; describe the bridge play - and the four very different sets of answers he gets and how he manages to get useful information out of that. :)

The bit about Dr Roberts naming off all the kinds of furniture in the room in that much detail - e.g. William and Mary this, French empire that - struck me when I tried to imagine how a first-time reader might react, because I *really* couldn't do it. Christie even lampshades it by having the character himself say that he feels just like an auctioneer.

(Incidentally, only some of the witnesses bother to mention that HEY, THERE WAS A GRAND PIANO IN THE ROOM, which I'd've thought they'd notice...)

Footnote 1: One of the sessions of questioning the witnesses actually contains the dog-in-the-nighttime quote, so this would have to be an AU edition of Cards on the Table. :)

Footnote 2: There's a dramatized BBC audio edition of Cards on the Table in which Mrs Oliver is performed by Stephanie Cole, BC's co-star from Cabin Pressure. It and she are quite good.

Edited at 2011-08-30 07:42 am (UTC)
goldvermilion87
Aug. 30th, 2011 06:17 am (UTC)
That was really good! Thanks for sharing! :-D
disassembly_rsn
Aug. 30th, 2011 06:58 am (UTC)
Re: Comment - Of Reading and Rubbers
Thank you! I'm glad it worked for you.

Edited at 2011-08-30 07:29 am (UTC)
janesgravity
Aug. 30th, 2011 07:21 am (UTC)
Two of my favourite things in one fic. I LOVE Cards on the Table (even though I've forgotten whodunit - lol). Excellent :D
disassembly_rsn
Aug. 30th, 2011 07:34 am (UTC)
Re: Comment - Of Reading and Rubbers
Thank you!

I love it myself, and goodness knows, all four of the suspects are serious contenders. Not remembering which one committed the main murder is quite understandable...

The first time I read it I ended up suspecting the other three detectives as well as the *proper* suspects, because I don't think I'd read any of the Colonel Race or Superintendent Battle stories. (Which is why Sherlock, being a suspicious person, did it too.)
janesgravity
Aug. 30th, 2011 08:57 am (UTC)
Re: Comment - Of Reading and Rubbers
Lol I do remember thinking that ... I think I need to re-read the book, too \o/
talimenios79
Aug. 30th, 2011 10:34 am (UTC)
John reading Agatha Christie to Sherlock. Squee. Two of my biggest loves together. This was so very awesome.
disassembly_rsn
Aug. 31st, 2011 12:30 am (UTC)
Re: Comment - Of Reading and Rubbers
Thank you for the kind words.

I did play around with writing it as John reading to Sherlock, but this version is actually Sherlock reading to John while J is in hospital. (Although given that you're only hearing commentary and not AC's text, I can see how that may not be coming across.)
morganstuart
Aug. 30th, 2011 01:51 pm (UTC)
Oh, this was my prompt! You've put a huge smile on my face with this clever, wonderful story. I love the banter between them as Sherlock questions everything about the book.

And here's my favorite moment:

"Is she Poirot's blogger?"

John giggled. Sherlock was glad to hear it, after what John had been through. He would have done much more than read aloud for a few hours to hear it, although it wouldn't do to say so.


Beautifully done in every way.
disassembly_rsn
Aug. 31st, 2011 01:27 am (UTC)
Re: Comment - Of Reading and Rubbers
Thank you; glad you approve.
(Deleted comment)
disassembly_rsn
Aug. 31st, 2011 01:28 am (UTC)
Re: Comment - Of Reading and Rubbers
Thank you.

I wonder what he'll think of the film adaptations...
fengirl88
Aug. 31st, 2011 01:10 am (UTC)
Sherlock rolled his eyes. Really, scratch one's head once with a handgun and one never heard the end of it, apparently.

*sporfles*

disassembly_rsn
Aug. 31st, 2011 01:30 am (UTC)
Re: Comment - Of Reading and Rubbers
Well, you *know* that in real life John would have given Sherlock hell over that idiot move with the gun, once he calmed down from all the near-death experiences and such...
cathedralcarver
Sep. 2nd, 2011 02:14 am (UTC)
Oh, I just adore the banter in this. I heartily enjoyed from beginning to end!
disassembly_rsn
Sep. 2nd, 2011 09:03 pm (UTC)
Re: Comment - Of Reading and Rubbers
Thank you. I'm glad this worked for you, especially if I'm getting their voices reasonably right.
nejem
Sep. 3rd, 2011 08:48 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed this fill, it was lovely and domestic and heartwarming in a way! :D

I loved the banter between Sherlock and John, how John defended the book and how Sherlock reads it and offers his typical commentary, lovely! I can perfectly picture them in my mind, I think you got their voices down in the right way!

I'm afraid I haven't read much by Agatha Christie (although one of my all time favourite books is And Then There Were None, I read that countless times) so I didn't understand everything that was mentioned here (like what happened to the victim, what's this about the bridge game, etc.) but you got me curious: I think I'll go read the book and then come back here to read again this fic and enjoy it even more!

Wonderful work, really wonderful!
disassembly_rsn
Sep. 3rd, 2011 09:06 pm (UTC)
Re: Comment - Of Reading and Rubbers
Thank you for the kind words. I'm glad to hear you say that I'm getting their voices right.

I'm afraid I haven't read much by Agatha Christie

Very gently said. I ought to have thought of that - I'm familiar enough with the story that I didn't think to have Sherlock read out a bit more of it to establish what's going on. I'm sorry.

At the beginning of the story, Poirot runs across an acquaintance of his who fancies himself a collector of various objets d'art. While talking of collecting, it emerges that the collector also fancies himself a collector of murderers, and of course only the best - those who have got away with it. Poirot is then invited to a dinner party to meet the collector's collection - to find that the guests are three of Christie's other series detectives, all of whom he knows, and four strangers.

After dinner, they form two bridge tables - the four detectives in room A, the four suspects in room B, with the host sitting in room B off to one side, partially screened from view of the bridge table. Nobody went in or out of room B. Naturally the host was found dead at the end of the evening.

The various detectives set to work to try to figure out not only who killed the host, but what it was that the various suspects did that made them part of the host's collection. They've got very little physical evidence to go on, so it's Poirot's dream case - it apparently *has* to be tackled by pure reasoning and appreciation of psychology.
nejem
Sep. 3rd, 2011 09:23 pm (UTC)
Re: Comment - Of Reading and Rubbers
Very gently said. I ought to have thought of that - I'm familiar enough with the story that I didn't think to have Sherlock read out a bit more of it to establish what's going on. I'm sorry.
Oh no no, don't worry, it's still a perfectly enjoyable fic! And on the contrary, it didn't frustrate me or anything such as that: on the other hand it made me want to read the book, so well done you! :D Plus I've been wanting to read more stories by Agatha Christie for quite a while now since I loved And Then There Were None so much, so again thank you for writing a lovely and domestic fill such as this and rec me a nice mystery book to read at the same time!

And oh my, your description just made me crave for that book now! Too bad tomorrow will be a Sunday and most shops will be closed, but on Monday I'll go straight into my library and buy that book: it sounds incredibly intriguing! No wonder it's Poirot's dream case and no wonder Sherlock looked interested at reading it to John in your fic!

I found a wonderful fic and a wonderful rec, what a lucky night I just had! :D
disassembly_rsn
Sep. 3rd, 2011 09:32 pm (UTC)
Re: Comment - Of Reading and Rubbers
I'm glad you liked it, and I hope you enjoy the book. :)

If you've got an audible.com account and are in the mood for it, incidentally, the dramatized BBC production has Stephanie Cole as Ariadne Oliver - Benedict Cumberbatch's co-star from Cabin Pressure. (Mrs Oliver's the character that Sherlock thinks might be Poirot's blogger.)

The BBC dramatized recording is abridged as well as dramatized, though, so it's not the best way to read/listen to the story for the first time. I enjoy it, though.

There's also an unabridged recording read by Hugh Frasier, who played Poirot's sidekick Hastings in the BBC television adaptations of the Poirot stories, opposite David Suchet as Poirot. (Hastings doesn't appear in this particular story, though.)
nejem
Sep. 4th, 2011 09:40 am (UTC)
Re: Comment - Of Reading and Rubbers
Ooh, very interesting! I will definitely keep an eye out for the dramatized BBC production after reading the book, I think Stephanie Cole's voice is perfect for audio dramas!

Thanks for all these info, that was very kind of you! :)
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )

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