Unlike several of the reviews I’ve written for the Society so far, this book (which was sent to me by the author, Tim Symonds) features a Holmesian story much like the ones in the Canon. Watson is the narrator, Holmes and his case are the focus, and it takes place in the era that the Canon was originally set. This will, I am sure, make a number of Society members very happy.
The story, as noted in the publisher’s summary, takes place in 1906 and is firmly set during the Retirement Era. Holmes is away in Sussex with his bees, while Watson tends to his practice. It becomes clear from the get go that Watson is rather bored without the stimulation of his friend’s cases. It is hardly surprising, then, that when approached by General Yuan for his help in developing a company of Chinese army medics, he leaps at the chance.
The book is steeped in historical detail which many readers will find incredibly rich. The author meticulously notes the ephemera of the Edwardian era, such as ads and brands and the popular fashions of the time. It does an excellent job of making you feel like you’re there, standing next to Watson. When the narrative moves to China, the historical details do not end, and you’ll find yourself discovering a plethora of fascinating information.
The mystery is complex and knotty, and will satisfy anyone who has a fondness for royal dramas. It was difficult to work out in advance, as no one is telling the full truth. It also moves incredibly swiftly, moving from action to action to action, and it will certainly keep you engaged (read more...)
Professor Steve Seifert - University of New Mexico
"This is a meticulously researched and expertly plotted Holmes & Watson tale. It takes place mostly in an exotic location but feels very familiar in the voice of Dr. Watson and the typical brilliance of Holmes' unraveling of a deep mystery, and one that may threaten them both. Tim Symonds has captured the authorial voice of Dr. Watson as well as the ambience and attitudes of the era. The descriptions of the arduous overland journey to China as well as the sights, sounds, rituals, and politics of Dynastic China are brilliantly rendered and left me feeling as though I knew a great deal more about that bygone time and place after finishing the story than when I began, something I suspect would apply to many, no matter where on Earth they live. Others have summarized the plot and I will not add to that here. However, at the end of the book is an Epilogue with much additional information on the historical events from which many characters and plot points are drawn, as well as a descriptive glossary, English idioms, obscure words and phrases, and background readings that provide added value to the experience and for which I was quite eager after finishing the tale. Bravo!"
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It's the year 1906. Rumours abound that a deadly plot is hatching - not in the fog-ridden back-alleys of London's Limehouse district or the sinister Devon moors of the Hound of the Baskervilles but in faraway Peking. Holmes's task - discover whether such a plot exists and if so, foil it. But are the assassins targeting the young and progressive Ch'ing Emperor or his imperious aunt, the fearsome Empress Dowager Cixi? The murder of either could spark a civil war. The fate of China and the interests of Britain's vast Empire in the Orient could be at stake. Holmes and Watson take up the mission with their customary confidence – until they find they are no longer in the familiar landscapes of Edwardian England. Instead, they tumble into the Alice In Wonderland world of the Forbidden City.