Friday, 16 November 2018

Read in 2018 - 19: Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Twain Papers

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Twain Papers
by Roger Riccard

When I was about 10 years old, I went through a Sherlock Holmes phase and read all the books available at my school’s library.

The first time I realised that such a thing as fan fiction (or "pastiche") officially exists was much later, in connection with Star Trek some time in the 1990s, when I found out that numerous fans have written, more or less professionally, stories involving the characters and settings of their favourite series.

Hardly surprising, then, that the same is true for almost any popular set of characters from films, series and books, including Sherlock Holmes.

The book I am reviewing here is one such example of pastiche. It was published in 2014, long after Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's death, and it is part of a series of Holmes-based fan fiction, some (but not all) by the same author. The story is set 5 years after Sherlock Holmes' presumed death, and it nicely ties in with someone whose biography I have read and reviewed here not long ago: Samuel L. Clemens a.k.a. Mark Twain.

The famous author and his family are in London for a series of talks when a briefcase with notes disappears from their hotel suite. Everything looks as if someone stole those papers, which were going to be included in Mark Twain's autobiography, either to hinder their publication or to publish them without the author's consent in order to make profit.

Somehow, Twain finds out that Holmes is still alive and goes to find him at his rooms in Baker Street, where he and Dr. Watson have not been idle over the past five years, but deliberately stayed below the public's radar. Twain's case interests Holmes enough to break his reclusion, and soon he and Watson are interviewing suspects, travelling by train as far as Bristol, staying at country houses of the rich and famous, and visiting theatre performances and clubs.

As a sideline, Watson bumps into an old acquaintance. Both he and the lady are now widowed, and romance blossoms. I kept hoping she or her family had nothing to do with the case!

I really enjoyed this book; it was never overly lengthy but detailed enough to picture all the characters, rooms, houses and other places very well. 
Written from Dr. Watson's perspective, I particularly liked those bits that dealt with Watson's own life and experience, showing him not merely as a sidekick to Holmes' great mind. 
Of course the story held special appeal for me because of the Mark Twain angle. I have yet to read his autobiography, and naturally there won't be any mention of Holmes in it - but the famous author really was in London (more than once, I should think), and if Holmes and Watson had been real people, it is easy to imagine their paths would have crossed, and they would have liked each other. In case I'll come across more free ebooks from this series on Amazon's kindle shop, I will definitely download them.


  1. When I was in high school in New York I was obsessed with Sherlock Holmes...I had all of A.C. Doyle's stories, a huge book of Sherlock Holmes adventures and I would read them over and over again!

    1. Have you ever been to London, Francesca? I've visited the Sherlock Holmes museum there in the 1990s - it is "his house" in Baker Street, with everything exactly as described in the books, down to the last detail.

  2. During our '92 sabbatical year in Budapest I found one good bookstore with books in the English Language. I got a set of Sherlock Holmes books for my daughters who enjoyed them a lot...I enjoy the thought that Holmes and Twain might have met and liked one another. This is not a free kindle book here, but it is very inexpensive.

    1. It is always interesting and fun to play out in one's mind how a meeting between a real and a fictional person would have panned out, I think!
      Nice to know your daughters also enjoyed the original Holmes stories.