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Thursday, 12 November 2015

'Sherlock Holmes and a Scandal in Batavia' by Jeremy Kingston



Published by Robert Hale,
31 July 2015. 
ISBN 978-0-7198-1611-6


This is a well written pastiche of the Sherlock Holmes stories that develops into a clever mystery incorporating real life events of the era.  It is set in 1884 as Gordon sets off to relieve the garrison at Khartoum and the Irish prepare for action on the mainland.  The references to some of those events and to details of the Conan Doyle stories are fully explained in the end notes. 

The tale begins with a manuscript by Dr Watson surfacing in 1981.  It transpires that the manuscript was retained in a lawyer's office until the deaths of 5 eminent people had occurred - when the last of the 5 died then the manuscript could be released.  In the actual tale events start with the arrival at 221b Baker Street of a frightened figure in a stovepipe hat who proves to be the reclusive Prince Alexander, only surviving son of the King of the Netherlands.  Amusingly this timid man is even more frightened when Holmes identifies him immediately; the prince is concerned that this apparent knowledge means that Holmes is a tool of his enemies.  Once disabused of this notion he tells Holmes and Watson about his fears of a plot to kill him. 

Watson and Holmes, of course, offer their aid and find themselves, separately and together, travelling around England and then France with the prince, helping to protect him from poisoning, kidnap and deception.  The efforts of Holmes to outwit a 'Napoleon of Crime' (not Moriarty or Moran) who is new to the Sherlockian canon are as imaginative as you would expect.  He is able to assist Lestrade in dealing with dynamite explosions in London and to keep his charge reasonably safe.

This is, as I said at the beginning, a very good version of a Sherlock Holmes tale.  The chapter headings are the titles of some of the Holmes stories - another clever touch. It is the author' s first Holmes pastiche.
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Reviewer: Jennifer S. Palmer

Jeremy Kingston is a playwright, novelist and poet. For many years he was also a theatre critic, reviewing plays for the magazine Punch and then as a critic on The Times. His most recent play was Making Dickie Happy where he imagined Noel Coward, Agatha Christie and Lord Louis (Dickie) Mountbatten happening to meet at the start of their careers at an island hotel off the coast of Devon. Two volumes of his poetry have been published. He was born in London, brought up in various Home Counties and now lives again in London.

Jennifer Palmer Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic. I now lecture to adults on historical topics including Famous Historical Mysteries.



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