Book Reviews - Sherlock Holmes and The Crowned Heads of Europe
Posted by Steve Emecz on
"Turley debuts with a superior collection of four interconnected novellas involving Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in intelligence work on behalf of the British government. In the most memorable entry, “The Adventure of the Inconvenient Heir-Apparent,” Empress Elisabeth of Austria invites Holmes to Geneva, Switzerland, in 1898 in the hope the detective can clear up the circumstances of the deaths of her son, Rudolf, and his mistress nine years earlier, a tragedy generally regarded as a murder-suicide. The solution Holmes arrives at is grounded in the political tensions roiling the Austro-Hungarian empire at the time. In “The Case of the Dying Emperor,” the Baker Street duo travel in 1888 to Charlottenburg, Germany, after a controversy arises over the appropriate medical treatment for Emperor Frederick III, pitting his country’s doctors against the eminent British laryngologist supposedly called in by his spouse, a daughter of Queen Victoria; the outcome places Kaiser Wilhelm in power. Besides convincingly capturing Watson’s voice, Turley offers a plausible explanation for each historical mystery and keeps readers engaged, despite stating at the outset that all four cases lack definitive resolutions. Sherlockians will welcome more such volumes from this gifted author."
The Baker Street Journal (Vol 72)
Here are four clever pastiches woven around Holme's connection to the German Empire over the quarter century leading up to the First World War. Holmes and Watson deal with royalty and spies in ways that shed light on "Scandal In Bohemia" and "His Last Bow".
Tom Turley has done impeccable research; his PhD in late Victorian British defense policy undoubtedly helped. His scholarship shines through, and there are a goodly number of references listed for interested readers, although family trees, or lists of important players included in the book proper, might have made that information somewhat easier to access for non-erudite readers, myself included.
This is an immersive foray into the politics that led up to the First World War, and a pleasurable chance to spend time with the Great Detective and his assistant. A fun read, definitely recommended for Baker Street fans.
There is much to commend and contemplate in this fascinating book by Tom Turley. First is his mastery of defining characters. Those with principal roles to “walk on” parts are compelling and finely detailed. This is much more than describing dress or other superficial affectations. He finds a voice and motivation that reflects the complexity of each character. Crown Prince Frederick, in the first case of the book, who is unable to speak, communicates his desperation and despair. Von Bork drips with contempt. Turley is right on pitch with Dr. Watson’s storytelling and switches effortlessly to Holmes’s style when required. The amount of research that went into the telling of the four stories is staggering. It is rare to find footnotes and a bibliography for historical fiction, but you will find them with this novel. Turley manages to take the reader on a journey from 1888 to 1913 and the motives and key characters leading up to the First World War with the engrossing manner of a saga. Countries, nation states, changing political alliances and royalty abound, but these occasionally confusing circumstances are clarified as the book progresses. Turley also provides moments of wit and wry humour. The tension mounts from the first through the last adventure. Key elements from the Canon and its interpretations are also present. From Sherlock’s disguises, references to other Canonical tales and characters to John Watson’s appreciation of the “fairer sex.” Sherlock Holmes and the Crowned Heads of Europe is an inspired mashup of fact and fiction. Although we know that WWI is the ultimate ending of these historical adventures, Turley nevertheless provides an engrossing, multi-dimensional and entertaining perspective on the factors that got us there.
This amazing volume accomplishes several things. It tells stories about the True Sherlock Holmes – a hero for his own or any other age. And it examines his and Dr. Watson’s roles in those strange years leading up to the First World War, when colonialism and nationalism and greed were all being tied closer and closer together, strangled by treaties and counter-treaties and convoluted royal family trees. This volume contains four separate stories that, when read with extra attention, reveal an over-arching theme of the terrible game of brinkmanship being played by the world’s leaders, while explaining what Holmes and Watson were doing as the world slid inevitably toward war. Turley is an exceptionally knowledgeable Sherlockian, and an incredibly thorough historian as well. In this volume, he as revealed with certainty some of the best of Holmes and Watson’s adventures. I look forward to more revelations from Turley’s trips to the Tin Dispatch Box.
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Four cases that chronicle Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson’s quarter-century of espionage against the German Empire. As most readers know, that campaign ended in triumph on the night of August 2, 1914. Along the way, there were many ups and downs, some of them recorded in this volume.
The Case of the Dying Emperor (1888). Our Heroes journey to Charlottenburg to defend Frederick III, Germany’s stricken emperor, from the wily machinations of the “Iron Chancellor,” Otto von Bismarck, and Frederick’s cold and calculating son, the future “Kaiser Bill.”
The Inconvenient Heir-Apparent (1898). Holmes is summoned to Geneva by the legendary “Sisi,” Empress Elisabeth of Austria, to “rake through the coals of Mayerling” and learn the true fate of Crown Prince Rudolf, her dead son.
A Scandal in Serbia (1903). The actual events behind “A Scandal in Bohemia.” Get ready for surprising revelations about that story’s heroine and meet two non-Bohemian kings, a hapless queen, and conspirators who will light “the Balkan Powder Keg” that sets off World War I.
The Welbeck Abbey Shooting Party (1913). A prequel to “His Last Bow.” Can Holmes save a threatened heir-apparent without compromising his more vital mission to outwit a German spy? Can Watson spend a week in the country with two beautiful, aristocratic ladies and still go home to his third wife?