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Book Review

Book Cover

The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
The Veiled Detective


Author: David Stuart Davies
Titan Books
RRP: £7.99, US $9.95, Cdn $12.95
ISBN: 978 1 84856 490 9
Available 23 October 2009

It is 1880, and a young Sherlock Holmes arrives in London to begin his career as a private detective. However, he soon attracts the attention of the master criminal Professor James Moriarty, who is driven by his desire to control - or destroy - this fledgling genius. Enter Dr John H Watson, newly returned from Afghanistan, and soon to make history as Holmes’s famous companion and chronicler...


Originally published by Robert Hale Ltd in 2004, The Veiled Detective is the most recently penned novel in Titan’s opening batch of Sherlock Holmes reprints. However, in terms of the character’s chronology, it is the earliest one, since it deals with the events surrounding the momentous first encounter between the detective and Dr John H Watson in A Study in Scarlet. It’s also the longest one, so you get more Holmes for your money.

However, David Stuart Davies’s book doesn’t just tell the story of Holmes’s earliest cases before he met Watson, as I initially assumed. It doesn’t just explore how, like Mr Spock in Star Trek and the Doctor in Doctor Who, Holmes needs human companionship in order to balance his cold, calculating intelligence, as I inferred from the opening chapters. It also puts a daring new spin on Holmes’s and Watson’s meeting and their ensuing relationship.

Events unfold in a manner that will be broadly familiar to even the most casual of Sherlockians, but many of the details are shockingly different. The idea is that the stories written by Watson do not tell us the whole truth. For instance, “Watson” is actually called Walker, he is dismissed in disgrace from Afghanistan rather than injured in battle, and he is placed at 221B Baker Street by Professor Moriarty in order to observe Holmes and report back about the detective’s activities. The Baker Street location is itself selected by the Napoleon of Crime, as is its “housekeeper” Kitty Hudson, an actress who is also in Moriarty’s employ.

In a way, The Veiled Detective is the antithesis of Robert Lee Hall’s 1977 novel Exit Sherlock Holmes. In that book, which takes place at the opposite end of Holmes’s career, Sherlock and his brother Mycroft turn out not to be who we and Watson have long assumed them to be. In this book, Sherlock and Mycroft are real enough (though even Mycroft has his own agenda), but the identities and motivations of most of the other major characters are called into doubt.

The first third of the novel introduces the protagonists, before the middle section retells the basic story of A Study in Scarlet, with a few further eyebrow-raising differences along the way. The narrative then takes a whistle-stop tour of more of Holmes’s best-known cases, including The Greek Interpreter, The Sign of Four and The Final Problem.

This controversial take will not be to everyone’s liking, simply because it throws doubt upon everything we thought we knew and loved about the detective’s mythology. However, the very fact that so much of the legend is called into question means that anything goes, and that makes for an excitingly unpredictable read.


Richard McGinlay

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