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Saturday 26 February 2022

‘Sherlock Holmes and the Explorers’ Club’ by Linda Stratmann

Published by Sapere Books,
11 January 2022.
ISBN: ‎ 978-1-80055483-2

The story is set in 1876. It is told by Dr Stamford when, many years later, he writes his reminiscences of his time as a medical student at Barts hospital, where he met Sherlock Holmes and shared several adventures with him. In these stories, Stamford is Holmes’ early biographer, preceding Dr Watson. While Stamford is working earnestly to become a doctor, Holmes is pursuing his own chosen studies, although Stamford is uncertain how he intends to utilise this knowledge. Stamford has already aided Holmes in one investigation but, at the start of this story, he has not been in close contact with him for some time, but then he hears of a mystery that might interest Holmes. Stamford seeks out Holmes to tell him about a man who died in the hospital after being crushed by a cab. It is not a suspicious death but there is nothing to identify the victim, except that one of his feet boasts seven toes. Stamford thinks that the puzzle of the man’s identity may intrigue Holmes, and if he finds out who the dead man is, they might be able to inform his family. Holmes accompanies Stamford to examine the dead man’s belongings and discovers a concealed piece of paper with a line of numbers on it. This is clearly a code. It takes Holmes some time to break the code and when he does succeed he uncovers a chilling message that warns that the sender suspects murder has occurred and more killings are anticipated. Unfortunately, without knowing the identity of the dead man, there is nothing they can do, although, with the mention of murder in mind, Stamford searches through recent newspapers to discover any unusual deaths.

Things change when the man is identified as Charlie Wilson, who was in service at a boys’ day school. His sister had come to London to tell him about an inheritance they had received. She had gone to see Mr Bradstreet, the headmaster of the school where Wilson worked but Bradstreet was unhelpful and told her that her brother no longer worked for the school. Wilson’s landlady was equally unhelpful and when he did not return to his lodgings she had sold his possessions. Wilson’s sister had only discovered his fate when she happened to hear about the death of a man with seven toes.

Holmes and Stamford go to interview Bradstreet. They discover that he is a younger man than they anticipated, and the school is damp and dilapidated, with buckets distributed around the building to catch the rain. Holmes soon establishes that Bradstreet had written the coded note discovered in Wilson’s possession. When he informs Bradstreet that the note was not delivered and indicates that he has broken the code, the headmaster is clearly appalled. He excuses himself and leaves immediately. Holmes directs Stamford to follow Bradstreet, without being observed, and he succeeds in doing so, shadowing him to St Paul’s Cathedral. Stamford thinks that Bradstreet is trying to contact someone and, at first, he seems to be disappointed but then he hurries up to the whispering gallery and Stamford gets the impression he has seen somebody with whom he wishes to speak. A short time later, Stamford is appalled to witness Bradstreet plunging from the gallery to his death. Stamford is convinced that there was someone else in the gallery, but he is the only person who has seen this and, at the inquest, the Coroner gives the verdict of accidental death.

Now convinced that something very sinister is going on, Holmes and Stamford continue to investigate. They make the acquaintance of Bradstreet’s father and his fiancée, Miss Ellison. She is adamant that Bradstreet had told her that he had some investments that would bring him a sizeable amount of money, which would allow them to marry, although his father knows nothing of this. The sleuths then discover a link to a small group of Bradstreet’s college friends, one of whom has recently died in a strange accident. These young men call themselves the Explorers’ Club, not because they are planning to travel to exotic places but because they have dedicated themselves to a strange, secret treasure hunt. As they probe the truth behind the Explorers’ Club and its remaining members, Stamford and Holmes place themselves in increasing danger and Stamford again experiences the perils of joining Sherlock Holmes in his investigation.

Sherlock Holmes and the Explorers’ Club
is the second in the series of early adventures of Holmes narrated by Dr Stamford. It is a superbly authentic series, written by an author who is an expert on the Victorian period, and the plot is interesting and coherent. Stamford is an engaging narrator, and he presents a believable picture of Holmes that fits well with the original character created by Conan Doyle. Sherlock Holmes and the Explorers’ Club is a very enjoyable 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
The Curse of the Concrete Griffin
click on the title.

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