Saturday, October 6, 2012
Sherlock Holmes & the Treasure Train: Review
Frank Thomas is, according to Wikipedia, an American actor, author, and bridge-strategy expert who became fascinated with the character of Sherlock Holmes after watching William Gillette perform the part during his farewell tour. This led him to pen nine Holmes novels, including Sherlock Holmes and the Treasure Train. This is Thomas's fourth effort....and may I just say I don't think I'll be seeking out any of the others. To quote Inspector MacDonald, "...there's something about it that just doesn't sit comfortable....[T]he taste isn't right." This is a case of an American enthusiast trying way too hard to write a British story. And not just any British story, but a novel about Holmes. There are plenty of American authors who can pull this off pretty well. Thomas, unfortunately, is not one of them.
You'd think a Holmes enthusiast might actually have immersed himself in the works of Conan Doyle, the better to imitate his style. And the better to capture Watson's voice as narrator. Yeah, no. The rhythm and cadence and word choice doesn't remind me of Conan Doyle--except briefly in very spotty patches He sprinkles his work with Americanisms--often putting them in the mouth of Holmes and trying to make it okay by having Holmes say, "As our American cousins would say...." Why the heck do we need to know what the American cousins would say? It's not as if the client is American. BUT, just to remind us that this IS a British story, he also has Holmes throwing about "old chap" or "good chap" and "old fellows" like a bad English impersonator. AND, to remind us just who we're dealing with here, Watson--our jolly narrator, what ho--tells us every other page that we're reading about "the great detective," "the world's only consulting detective," "the sleuth," etc. The only time Watson isn't calling him by one of these designations is when he's calling Holmes "my intimate friend" in the most awkward way. Not just once--repeatedly. Seriously? A solid, British man of the Victorian age blatantly claiming intimacy in front of the reading public?
So, what about the story? Well, here we go...another battered tin dispatch box crammed with papers has come to light--this time found by Thomas who was in Charing Cross avoiding bombs during the Blitz. Whew. By my reckoning, Dr. Watson must have stashed about 50 boxes of case notes. This particular Holmes pastiche revolves around a Great Train Robbery...rivaling the story told by Michael Crichton ten years earlier. Oops, does that seem like a coincidence to you? Here we have a half million pounds of gold disappearing from an armored train that is bound for a meeting with French authorities and a golden trip across the Channel. The case involves sharpshooters, men of high finance, undercover agents, and cold blooded murder. Before it's all over, Watson will be kidnapped and will have earned the title "The Fastest Gun on Baker Street." And Holmes will discover how the gold could disappear before it was ever stolen. Such a fun-sounding adventure....that just doesn't quite deliver. The mystery itself is fairly decent. It has enough twists and turns at the end to keep the reader guessing. But it's just not enough to make the story successful in the Holmes tradition. Two stars.