Yet another version of what the Great Detective was up to during the busiest period of his life: the three years when he was presumed dead.
Murthy, who’s already offered a quite different account of the Great Hiatus (Sherlock Holmes: The Missing Years: Japan, 2015), now begs to differ with himself. Holmes wasn’t in the Far East between 1891 and 1894 after all; he was in Italy and Africa in pursuit of a manuscript from the time of Marco Polo, half of which Antonio Rozzi, chief conservator of the Venice Museum, brought to Baker Street shortly before Holmes’ disagreement with Professor Moriarty led to those greatly exaggerated reports of his death. Since the manuscript, once its two halves are united, promises the secret of everlasting life, the stakes are high. Nor is Holmes, disguised as a Polish priest with the implicit blessing of the Holy See, the only person who’s looking for it. A Tangier secret society called the Guardian of the Letter, which has had custody of the second half of the manuscript for 500 years, has been so stirred up by a visit from Thalassery Vatoot Mohammad Koya, an Indian cinnamon merchant descended from its original author, that they’ve joined forces with Col. Sebastian Moran, Moriarty’s right-hand man, to seize the Venetian half. If this sounds like a recipe for exotic adventure and canned history rather than crime and detection, that’s exactly what it is, and Holmes, though he naturally excels as explorer and diplomat, has precious little to do—and Watson, who spends most of his time grousing about his companion’s undying fondness for writing obscure monographs, still less—in the role that made him famous.
Shame on you, says Watson, if you don’t like the heroes in their unaccustomed new roles. Readers who expect Holmes and Watson to act like Holmes and Watson may want to think twice before taking this particular plunge.