Sherlock Book Review - Sherlock Holmes and the Strange Death of Brigadier-General Delves

Posted by Steve Emecz on

David Marcum

Sherlockian Tim Symonds has long made a specialty of tying his excellently written Holmes pastiches to historical events. Often he writes about the early twentieth century, and Holmes’s post-retirement involvement in the events leading up to and during World War I. Now he backs up to 1898 – and Watson meets and old comrade from his days in the Army, and specifically the life-changing Battle of Maiwand in July 1880. The excellent mystery is matched by the meticulously researched details, and once again Mr. Symonds has produced a winner.

Sound of The Baskervilles

This tale doesn’t begin with the usual repartee between the Baker Street lads, because Holmes, due to a lack of challenging cases, is in a foul mood. So Watson escapes to a fancy restaurant to treat himself to a rare expensive meal. To his delight he is hailed to a table occupied by an old colleague from the Afghan campaign at Maiwand. It seems that Murray had help saving Watson after he took a Jezail bullet; namely “Maiwand Mike” Fenlon, who now invites the doctor to join him for a splendid lunch. They reminisce over their military experiences of over twenty years ago. 

Mike indicates that their former officer, B-G Delves of the title has employed him to verify certain facts in the disastrous events at Maiwand. The pay is good and he has taken the job even though it was bad decisions by the Brigadier that resulted in the slaughter of over 2000 soldiers.

A week later Watson receives a telegram indicating that Mike has been arrested for the murder of Delves and hopes Mr. Holmes will help establish his innocence. He has refused to offer a plea and provides Watson with a sealed packet asking the doctor to swear that it will not be opened as long as Mike lives.

In a clever twist of the detective’s skills, the author uses Holmes as a witness for both the prosecution and the defense, exploiting the sleuth’s expertise and vast Canonical experience in crime, hoping that an acquittal will result. Later when Watson opens the packet, much of British military history is supplied along with a detailed explanation relating to the General’s death. After the reading Holmes is able to provide even more related information. What do lemons and a golden toothpick have to do with what occurred?

A plethora of explanations and details relating to various terms and events are provided at the end of the novel; including a recipe for Orange Fool. Well worth the so called “optional” read.

This is a very well written, entertaining and expertly researched yarn which many Sherlockians, especially those interested in military matters, will enjoy.


The Red Circle - Washington DC - Peter Blau

Sherlock Holmes and the Strange Death of Brigadier-General Delves, by Tim Symonds brings Holmes and Watson to the Bailiwick of Guernsey to rescue a war-time comrade of Watson from conviction on a charge of murder; there is much about Guernsey (where the author grew up), and the ill-fated British campaign in Afghanistan.


Sherlock Holmes and the Strange Death of Brigadier-General Delves is available from this site with a share going to our good causes and is Tim's sixth novel in the Tim Symonds Sherlockian Profile.

It's also available from:

Amazon USA     Barnes and Noble

Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)


It’s 1898.  Kismet brings about a chance reunion at a London club between Dr. Watson and Colonel “Maiwand Mike” Fenlon, former military comrades from their Northwest Frontier days and the desperate Battle of Maiwand. A week later an urgent cable seeking Sherlock Holmes’s help arrives from the Bailiwick of Guernsey, a British Crown Dependency 30 miles off the coast of Normandy. A retired high-ranking British Indian Army officer who commanded the troops at Maiwand has dropped dead. Colonel Fenlon is in a holding cell awaiting trial for his murder.

What role in the Brigadier-General’s death was played by a phial of patent medicine developed in India to treat cholera? Why are Colonel Fenlon’s forefinger and thumbprint on the neck of the phial when he swears he has never seen it before?

Above all, why is Fenlon refusing to enter a plea or even to tell his Defence counsel what took place the evening the Brigadier-General dropped dead?

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