On the Trail of a Biblical Serial Killer: Sherlock Holmes and the Book of Tobit
AuthorsCollins, Matthew A.
AffiliationUniversity of Chester
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AbstractIn the book of Tobit, Sarah, the daughter of Raguel, is tormented by the demon Asmodeus. She has been married seven times, but each time the demon kills her husband on her wedding night. In despair, she contemplates suicide and prays for deliverance. In the course of the narrative, Tobias, the son of Tobit, travels from Nineveh to Ecbatana and, with the help of the archangel Raphael, defeats the demon and marries Sarah. Between 1939 and 1946, Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce starred together in The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, a series of radio plays broadcast in the United States. One episode, aired on 26 March 1945, was titled ‘The Book of Tobit’ and featured Holmes and Watson investigating the deaths of a woman’s previous three husbands, each of whom, prior to his death, had received a threatening letter signed ‘Asmodeus’. Though substantially different in both content and context, throughout the case numerous comparisons are made with its scriptural forebear. This essay first explores the use of and engagement with Tobit in this wartime murder mystery before turning to re-examine the biblical text in the light of Holmes’ namesake investigation. By effectively transposing Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s celebrated detective to ancient Ecbatana, the inherently murderous nature of the biblical tale comes into sharper focus and the peculiarities of the narrative and its folkloric origins are both reassessed and illuminated from a perspective informed by crime fiction. In doing so, this essay further illustrates the extent to which the ‘genre lens’ through which we approach a text may govern our reading of it. Putting Sherlock Holmes on the case, a rather different interpretation of the text emerges – one in which there is a serial killer on the loose in the book of Tobit, and Sarah may not in fact be as innocent as she seems.
CitationCollins, M. A. (2019). “On the Trail of a Biblical Serial Killer: Sherlock Holmes and the Book of Tobit”. In Blyth, C. & Jack, A. (Eds). The Bible in Crime Fiction and Drama: Murderous Texts (pp. 9-28). London: T&T Clark.
DescriptionThis is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter published by Bloomsbury Academic in The Bible in Crime Fiction and Drama: Murderous Texts on 24th January 2019, available online: https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/the-bible-in-crime-fiction-and-drama-9780567677983/
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