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Literature / The Case Of Death And Honey

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The Case of Death and Honey is a short story by Neil Gaiman that features Sherlock Holmes.

"Death is the greatest crime of all." A dying Mycroft challenges his brother Sherlock to find a cure to death, to occupy his mind. He decides bees may have the answer, but not in Britain. Meanwhile, an old beekeeper in the Chinese hills named Gao ponders his legacy and approaching death, when a strange foreigner appears and wants to rent one of his hives.

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Tropes for this short story include:

  • And the Adventure Continues: Holmes plans to visit Watson and give him some honey, so that they can keep solving mysteries together. Gao collects the last bit of slurry Sherlock left, which allows him to become a young man and continue caring for his bees.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Dead gunman in this case; Gao thinks about the fact that his son died when he was only a few days old when lamenting that he has no one that can take care of his bees after he passes from this world. He also notes that he's so old that barely anyone would remember his dead family. So after he drinks the slurry, Gao realizes he can pose as his son with no one being the wiser.
  • Fountain of Youth: The honey that Holmes develops ends up being this, turning him from an old man into a spirited youth. Even the slurry is potent so that Gao can pose as his son with little to no trouble after heating some of it. It's also left unclear whether Holmes, Gao and soon Watson may have become immortal.
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  • Living Forever Is Awesome: Justified; Holmes took the case to honor his brother Mycroft and wanted a superior challenge to his intellect. He takes time to marvel at how his hands have grown young though, and notes that his small pot of youth-restoring honey is the most valuable object on the planet.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Holmes makes sure that his housekeeper has plenty of normal honey after she accidentally takes an experimental jar, just chiding her. He also pays Gao well for renting the hives and arranging his meals.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Again, justified; Holmes believes that if everyone has the secret to immortality then it would be too dangerous. He destroys his experimental garden, which leaves just a bit of slurry behind (arguably for Gao as additional payment). It is implied, however, that he takes his notes with home to replicate the experiment when necessary.
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  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Holmes believes that the professor who inspired The Adventure of the Creeping Man to have been on the right track pursuing immortality, but he failed to process the poisons out of the floral source. Eventually Holmes strikes upon the idea of using bees to gather the nectar and pollen from the toxic flowers, then consuming the resulting honey to become young again.
  • Seen It All: Part of the reason Sherlock takes on the challenge of finding the source of eternal youth: too many crimes are now trivial for him to solve in his aged experience.


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