Sherlock’s limitation

I have just finished reading the Dirk Gently series by Douglas Adams. They are really very good and I highly recommend them. The main idea in the series is that Dirk takes a holistic approach to detective work, stumbling along through life believing in the interconnectedness of all things. He believes this will lead him to all the clues he needs in time, wherever he choses to go and investigate, whether it be an all expenses paid trip to the Bahamas or simply following any driver who looks like they know where they are going.

It is therefore with great amusement that when reading this I happened to stumble upon a quote which sums up precisely my problem with Sherlock and his defining limitation. Here is said quote:

“What was the Sherlock Holmes principle? ‘Once you have discounted the impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.’ ”

“I reject that entirely,” said Dirk sharply. “The impossible often has a kind of integrity to it which the merely improbably lacks. How often have you been presented with an apparently rational explanation of something that works in all respects other than one, which is that it is hopelessly improbable?…The first idea merely supposes that there is something we don’t know about, and…there are enough of those. The second, however, runs contrary to something fundamental and human which we do know about. We should therefore be very suspicious of it and all its specious rationality.”
― Douglas AdamsThe Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

Sherlock only works so well because he is essentially a know it all. Which makes him in the end rather dull, as his limitation is the unknown. It is not exciting to see someone solve a case by trial and error, which by eliminating all the possibilities is what Holmes is doing, though very fast and in his head. I believe it is far more thrilling for someone to assemble unconnected clues, join the dots by intuition and point out a conclusion we had not even considered in a million years. A lot of Sherlock’s cases look like this to an outsider and in my opinion, that is the far better view to hold.