Updated: Mar 23
Sherlock Holmes is still the most popular fictional detective in the world, despite the fact that he made his first appearance in print over one hundred years ago.
Hosting a Sherlock Holmes themed book club meeting is not only a fun way to introduce your group to the thriller genre, but also a great excuse to plan a highly-themed afternoon full of mysterious, Victorian-era, Dark Academia decor, food and activities.
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Regardless of the specific book you choose to read, your decor will set the stage for your dark and curious event.
Since you're planning a meeting, not a full-on party, you won't need to worry about decorating your whole house. Simply focus on creating an evocative
still-life in the middle of the space where you and your book club members will be sitting, whether that's in the center of your dining room table, or on a coffee table surrounded by chairs in your living room.
Sherlock Holmes was notorious for the disorganized state of his study, standing in direct contrast to the methodical logic of his mind.
The Sherlock Holmes museum at 221B Baker Street in London has illustrated this contrast by decorating his fictional rooms with piles and piles of antique papers, writing implements, scientific instruments, and books galore.
This will make your decorating project quite easy! Just gather together as many dark, vintage items as you can find around your house (or borrow some if you're fresh out of Victorian antiques!), then pile them carelessly into an artsy centerpiece. Done!
Look for items that remind you of turn-of-the-century England, like old books, dark wood boxes or old tins, old keys or coins, a pocket watch or old-looking clock, binoculars, old maps, or even scientific vials and beakers.
Don't forget a magnifying glass and a pipe, and you can even frame a photo of Sherlock and set it in the middle of your still-life. If you're planning to set out placecards or signs describing your food, consider adding a red fingerprint on the cards for that murderous touch!
Speaking of food, you have several options to feed your book club guests. If you're meeting in the afternoon, you might like to serve a full British tea, complete with scones, sandwiches and pastries. Or, if you're meeting in the evening, you could offer desserts and cocktails, all dark and moody, of course!
If you choose to turn your meeting into a tea party, remember that a traditional tea service includes three courses: scones, tiny sandwiches, and bite-size desserts.
Theme your selections to pay tribute to the mystery genre with delicious fare like Blood Orange Scones, Cream Cheese & Raspberry Jelly Sandwiches (the jelly will look like blood!), and Thumbprint Cookies (reminiscent of the fingerprints a detective would find), or sweet little Dark Chocolate Macarons, each with a popsicle stick inserted into the filling so they look like little magnifying glasses.
If you decide to serve a dessert & drinks menu instead, think about how you might translate the wildly popular Dark Academia aesthetic to your food.
Look for dishes that include deep brown or red tones, and serve them in elegant china dishes or on silver trays for that Victorian vibe.
And if you're up for a baking challenge, you might like to try making this stunning Shattered Glass Cake from Ivy at One Green Planet. Isn't it such a showstopper?! Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood would be proud.
As for drinks, you can serve a nice British tea like an Earl Grey or a lovely red punch at your afternoon tea.
At your evening book club, pull out your decanters for red wine, as the Victorians would have, or set out the ingredients for mixed drinks and fill tiny bottles with grenadine. Invite each guest to mix their own drink like a potion!
In the mood for something fancy? Try a Black Widow Cocktail featuring blackberries, raspberries, vanilla, lemon, sugar and vodka.
Every party needs a fun activity to loosen up the guests, even a book club meeting. Once your book discussion has run its course, pour a few more drinks, set out one last delicious course of food, and do something lighthearted.
A short trivia game is always a great icebreaker, especially if your book club members are longtime fans of Sherlock Holmes. The Sherlock Holmes Museum offers this short quiz (with answers). Be sure to try it out yourself before the meeting to make sure the questions are the right difficulty level for your guests.
Alternatively, you might like to make a simple craft together, which has the dual purpose of providing a fun activity and also providing an item for each person to take home to remember the gathering.
Make a Victorian bookmark from vintage-looking scrapbook paper and a wax seal, or fold tiny bags out of old book pages.
Whatever you choose to do, just keep the vintage, Dark Academia aesthetic in mind. It's always fun to immerse yourself in a fictional world, and your guests will love spending some time in a mysterious Victorian setting!