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Tuesday 11 January 2022

‘Sherlock Holmes and the Rosetta Stone Mystery’ by Linda Stratmann

Published by Sapere Press,
26 October 2021.
ISBN: 978-1-80055388-0

This story describes one of the earliest cases of Sherlock Holmes, set before he had established his illustrious career as an investigator and was still searching for a way to utilise his unique talents. It is recounted in a biography written by A. Stamford FRCS, who as a young man had been encouraged by John Watson to study to become a surgeon. The biography is dated 1924 but Stamford first encountered Holmes in 1876, when they were both students at St. Bartholomew’s Medical College in London. While Stamford was following the traditional route to become a surgeon, Holmes was pursuing a far wider and more esoteric course of studies, which many of his fellow students found perplexing. Although Stamford is also bemused by Holmes’ unconventional activities, he is also fascinated by his remarkable way of looking at things and his skill at deduction.

When George Luckhurst, a former college friend of Holmes, asks for help, Stamford joins Holmes in his first investigation. Luckhurst’s uncle is Dr Edgar Martinson, a resident keeper at the British Museum with particular responsibility for the Egyptian galleries. Dr Martinson claims to have seen dark figures moving across the gallery, illuminated by a soft light, in a procession that resembled the funerary rites for a dead pharaoh. Luckhurst is worried that this strange vision means that his uncle is unwell because of overwork, while Martinson is concerned that his experience might constitute a threat to the safety of the valuable artefacts housed in the museum.

Some time later, Dr Martinson’s fears seem to be borne out. While the British Museum is closed for cleaning, two guards are brutally attacked and the most precious exhibit in the Egyptian galleries, the Rosetta Stone, is stolen. Dr Birch, the keeper of Oriental Antiquities, asks Holmes and Stamford to investigate and Holmes agrees, despite the obstructive and contemptuous attitude of the obnoxious Inspector Caldwell of Scotland Yard. It soon becomes evident that Holmes has a far greater grasp on the intricacies of the case than Inspector Caldwell, but this flair for detection brings its own perils in its wake. Fortunately, although Caldwell’s sergeant starts by sharing the inspector’s attitude, he soon comes to respect Holmes’ abilities and plays a significant part in the conclusion of the mystery. This sergeant’s name is Lestrade and this heralds the start of his professional relationship with Sherlock Holmes. Holmes follows an intricate trail of clues and, with the aid of Stamford and Lestrade, baits a hazardous trap to capture the villains responsible for the theft of this great National Treasure.

Sherlock Holmes and the Rosetta Stone Mystery is the first in a new series of mysteries by this author, which recount previously undocumented, early adventures of the iconic detective. Linda Stratmann is an author who is renowned for her knowledge of the Victorian period and this skill is apparent in the authenticity and subtlety of the historical detail in this book. The plot is convincing as a Holmes’ mystery and the characterisation is excellent. The original characters are totally convincing and the introduction of Stamford as an engaging new narrator is a brilliant innovation, bringing an exciting new aspect to the mystery, which, in my opinion, works better than contemporary attempts to replicate the narrative style of Doctor Watson. The amalgamation of the original and newly-created characters is masterly, and this mystery of the Rosetta Stone is the most authentic recreation of a Sherlock Holmes story that I have read. This is a fascinating read, which I recommend.

Reviewer:  Carol Westron

Linda Stratmann was born in Leicester in 1948 and first started scribbling stories and poems at the age of six. She became interested in true crime when watching Edgar Lustgarten on TV in the 1950s. Linda attended Wyggeston Girls Grammar School, trained to be a chemist’s dispenser, and later studied at Newcastle University where she obtained a first in Psychology. She then spent 27 years in the civil service before leaving to devote her time to writing. Linda loves spending time in libraries and archives and really enjoys giving talks on her subject.

Carol Westron is a successful author and a Creative Writing teacher.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  Her first book The Terminal Velocity of Cats was published in 2013. Since then, she has since written 5 further mysteries. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. To read the interview click on the link below.
To read a review of Carol latest book This Game of Ghosts
click on the title.

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