Sherlock meets Van Gogh: Timothy Miller’s The Strange Case of the Dutch Painter


The fascination of Sherlock Holmes continues into the twenty first century, in a variety of media and inventive output. The demand for historic novels set within the Holmesian world stays sturdy.

In one of the best examples, the overblown prose of the originals is whittled to its intelligent core of satisfying plots and ingenious resolutions. Timothy Miller’s second ‘Unusual Case’ novel encompasses a witty amalgamation of Sherlockian investigation with historic oddities. The Unusual Case of the Dutch Painter (Seventh Road Books, February 2022) revolves across the suicide of Vincent Van Gogh, and throws up some intriguing views on the period, the painter, and the ability of artwork.

The Unusual Case books intermingle fictional and historic personages from the late Victorian age. Miller mixes these characters effortlessly. “A lot of the secondary characters, together with the narrator and the last word villain of the piece, had been actual folks,” he explains. A few of them “desperately clamoured for each fascinating element of their tales to be advised”, whereas there was little out there details about others.

Miller respects the historic timeline of factual occasions. “Though I desperately wished Gauguin to make his escape to Tahiti, for example, that really didn’t happen until three years later, which was manner out of bounds,” Miller says. He prefers to deal with historical past “like a body round an image—you’ll be able to’t paint outdoors the strains. It’s like writing poetry in conventional types.”

Conventional Victorian-era attitudes to ladies, principally expressed of their absence from vital roles within the plot, meant that Miller wanted to dig a bit of deeper for his functions. “What actually helped was a e-book I stumbled throughout referred to as The Deceivers, by Aviva Briefel.” Briefel’s work supplied “a strong grounding in ladies’s roles within the artwork world on the time (each licit and illicit), in addition to a form of hierarchy of forgery. Nice e-book!” he provides.

The Unusual Case of the Dutch Painter takes place throughout numerous European international locations because the protagonists chase down the forgers. To create these convincing places, Miller used a mixture of first-hand expertise and analysis, added to a sensible method that’s fairly probably under-utilized by historic authors basically. “I cheated,” he says. “I regarded on the PAINTINGS. I believe you can most likely map Auvers, and Arles, and each different location within the novel simply by Van Gogh’s works.”

The novel affords as a lot about artwork historical past because it does about fixing issues by way of inductive reasoning. Miller “grew up surrounded by trendy artwork” by way of a household connection, and “ fell in love with Michelangelo at a younger age”. His early curiosity, although, was not the genesis of this intriguing novel.

“To inform you the reality,” admits Miller, “I used to be in a card store at some point, and noticed a card with considered one of Van Gogh’s self-portraits. What I knew about Van Gogh on the time was what everyone is aware of: genius painter who reduce off his ear as a present for his lady-love after which later shot himself. And I stared on the image and thought, nicely if he actually wished to show his love, a painter would reduce his eye out for her. That one little discrepancy nagged at me, led to years of analysis, and at last this novel.”


Concerning the contributor: Clare Rhoden is a author and reviewer from Melbourne Australia. Her PhD investigated Australian literature of the Nice Warfare.


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