One Good Disagreement
While I agree there is some weakness especially apparent in the final third of Arthur and George, I think you have greatly underestimated and misunderstood an important element of the novel. I refer to your contention that: It wouldn’t have been so dry had Sir Arthur’s skills been more in doubt; the knowledge that eventually he would tap the correct villain and clear Mr. Edalji’s name took away some of my interest as I neared the end. To your first point, isn’t the sentence in which Conan Doyle first sees Mr. Edalji and immediately identifies him as oriental the single funniest and most telling line in the book? How much more could Sir Arthur’s skills be in doubt? To your second point or points, does Arthur tap the correct villain? Is Mr. Edalji’s name cleared? It seems to me the novel is more about Arthur’s inability to negotiate an investigation in the real world and reach an adequate conclusion, hindered all along by his exaggerated sense of self-worth and preconceived notions. You state: it was clear from the beginning that the mystery would be solved and that the solution wasn’t the sort that could be sussed out by a careful reader. Isn’t the great trick of the novel that we as readers, like Arthur, ignore or are blind to arguably the most logical explanation for its central crime? I think you have misidentified the true mystery of Arthur and George: It is one that may not be completely solvable but whose careful construction and implications can be sussed out by a careful reader.
Kate Schlegel responds:
I stand by my decision: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s reputation for eventually getting the good guy off makes for a lackluster mystery. But if you liked Arthur and George enough to write, you should definitely give One Good Turn a chance. I bet you’ll like it!