Still wondering what the great detective was doing between his reported death in 1891 and his reappearance in 1894? Actually, he was working closely with Shigeo Oshima, director of Intelligence Research for Emperor Meiji of Japan, on the shadowy Operation Kobe55.
Or rather, working his way toward Japan, since two-thirds of this knockabout tale has passed before Holmes and Watson steam into Nagasaki Bay. After surviving his confrontation with Professor Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls in a startlingly casual reboot, Holmes sends Watson a cryptic note and a ticket on the North Star, departing Liverpool for Yokohama, and the game is afoot. A murder aboard ship soon focuses Watson’s attention, and he makes confident, inaccurate accusations about which of his fellow passengers is guilty and, more amusingly, which of them is Holmes in disguise. Reunited at last, the former flat mates try one ingenious dodge after another to throw the omniscient Moriarty off their trail, pausing only long enough to converse with Rabindranath Tagore, dodge a boulder at Angkor Wat, and solve several lesser, and often more entertaining, mysteries en route to an impromptu audience with the emperor and a denouement in which Holmes unmasks a forgettable traitor lodged deep within Operation Kobe55. The most original contribution from Murthy is a series of footnotes in which Watson protests, among other things, his highhanded treatment by a young female editor at his American publisher’s office.
Bound to be overshadowed by Anthony Horowitz’s Moriarty (2014), which offers a quite different account of the battle between Holmes and Moriarty. That’s a shame, because Murthy (The Time Merchants and Other Strange Tales, 2013, etc.) provides sturdy adventure, colorful Japanese backgrounds, and a mastery of many voices, including Watson’s.