Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Scroll of the Dead: Review
The Future Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Scroll of the Dead by David Stuart Davies is a much better Holmes pastiche than the previous Davies offering I read last year (The Veiled Detective)--better in the sense that it adheres more strictly to the canon and expectations of those who like their Holmes stories to have a bit of continuity. I don't mind twists--provided the Doyle stories have not already established precedent.
In this outing, Holmes is asked by his brother Mycroft to attend a seance to unmask an impostor posing as a medium, Uriah Hawkshaw. Hawkshaw is busy fleecing wealthy mourners and Mycroft is afraid that while communicating with his deceased son, Sir Robert Hythe, may inadvertently disclose affairs of state. The medium is easily dispatched by Holmes keen eye for fraud. In the course of the evening he meets Sebastian Melmoth, a rich dandy who seems to be following in Oscar Wilde's social footsteps. But Holmes soon learns that Melmoth is a man hell-bent on obtaining immortality and willing to risk all--especially the lives of others--to locate an ancient Egyptian papyrus that is supposed to hold the secret of eternal life. He leaves behind a trail of robbery, death, and deception and it is up to Holmes and Watson to stop him and avert disaster...In this fast-paced adventure, the action moves from London to the picturesque Lake District as Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson once more battle with the forces of evil.
Scroll of the Dead shows that Davies does know his Sherlockian lore. He more accurately portrays the relationship between Holmes and Watson. He has the right mixture of action and ratiocination. There are chases across the countryside and nights spent with the pipe and violin. Watson is perhaps a shade too obtuse over a few points and Davies reveals a few too many clues. Holmes normally keeps his clues held more tightly to his chest--it's rare in the original stories for me to figure out the solution before the end. Overall--a very enjoyable read. If you're going to try a Davies pastiche, then go for this one and give The Veiled Detective a miss. Three and a half stars.