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Book Review: Sherlock Holmes The Missing Years: Timbuktu by Vasudev Murthy

Sherlock Holmes The Missing Years: Timbuktu by Vasudev Murthy

Vasudev Murthy's Sherlock Holmes The Missing Years: Timbuktu
Title: Sherlock Holmes The Missing Years: Timbuktu
Author: Vasudev Murthy
Paperback: 270 pages
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press (January 5th 2016)
Genre: Detective, Drama
Read: Hardcover
Stars: ★★★★☆
Buy On: Amazon India | Amazon US




Still wondering what Sherlock Holmes was doing between his reported death in 1891 and his reappearance in 1894? All the world knew that Sherlock Holmes died at the Reichenbach Falls, tumbling over the jagged cliff in a deadly embrace with his nemesis Moriarty. But for history’s greatest detective, death was only the beginning. Rumors abounded that Holmes had been sighted advising the Japanese emperor, studying with the Dalai Lama, and protecting the president of the United States, but only Dr. Watson knew the truth. From 1891 to 1894, Sherlock Holmes was dead to the world and having the grandest adventures of his career.
It begins when an Italian scholar travels from Venice to 221B Baker Street, to beg the help of the legendary detective. He carries an ancient parchment, written in the hand of Marco Polo himself. It is a rubbing made from a brass disc found in the libraries of Kublai Khan, and it was torn in half centuries ago to protect the world from a terrifying secret, one that, apparently, first Marco Polo, then another great traveler, the Moroccan Ibn Battuta, took dramatic steps to guard. Where, if anywhere, is its missing half?
Holmes springs into action. He fakes his death at Reichenbach, and proceeds undercover to Venice. A murdered scholar, an archivist from the Vatican, British imperial politics and, of course, the dire hand of Moriarty propel Holmes and a surprised but resolute Dr. Watson, playing the roles they assumed in Morocco, on a perilous journey down the Sahara to the ancient city of Timbuktu and beyond. In deepest Africa, Holmes will confront ruthless criminals, an ancient culture, and a staggering surprise.


My Review:

Note: Thanks Vasudev Murthy for offering me his book to read and review :)

Sherlock Holmes The Missing Years: Timbuktu by Vasudev Murthy

Cover: Beautiful!

Paper and font: Smellishous…

Readability, language: Requires Time and Attention

Why did I choose this book: I have been a fan of Doyle’s work and Holmes is one of my all-time-favourite detectives. So, this was natural progression, plus it was Doyle who left this back door ajar…

By making Sherlock disappear for a few years Doyle created a space that has been filled by so many and so much. This is Vasudev Murthy’s second book in this space. In this pastiche Sherlock Holmes goes on an adventure that involves eternal life, Ibn Batuta, Marco Polo, Tuaregs, Moriarty and Timbuktu.

The title is clear and sets the right expectations by informing the reader that the book is about Sherlock Holmes during the years he was missing, it also indicates where he was or where this book is set. I really liked the cover which is detailed with well chosen font and colours. The little detail of Holmes pipe was a nice touch. The blurb on the inside of the jacket cover is long and somewhat complex but that is a good indicator of what to expect from the book.

The book I received was a hardcover and I must say after a long time, I’m impressed by the print quality of an Indian Book. The paper smells lovely, the font is well laid out and reads easy, and the binding makes me want to keep this book on my shelf. It’s worth noting though that this book is published by Poisoned Pen Press and printed in the USA, so my calling it an Indian Book, in all aspects may not be correct.

The plot is brand-spanking-new and not like any other Holmes novel I have read. There are clear connects with Watson’s style of narrating but Vasudev Murthy also adds his own style and goes on tangents all his own. The objective is clear right at the start, and we know that Holmes is on a quest. The story follows mostly a linear path with subplots being a part of the main narrative rather than separate entities.

The main story is set in Africa, in the environs of Timbuktu but Holmes also visits Rome and Venice. Set in the 1890’s Vasudev Murthy shines here, no matter anything else about the book, in research he gets full marks. The people, places, time and situation are described in so much detail that it’s clear the author spent good time studying his subject, he also seems to have found good subject experts.

Apart from Holmes and Watson, who to most extents are described and behave as I’ve known them, there a bunch of other characters, each described in detail so that I could imagine each one of them and even felt a fondness for a couple of them. One character though stays through majority of the book – Hasso Ag Akotey the chief of the Tuaregs, he doesn’t play a vital role but plays a constant role. There is also the Pope and Moriarty who make appearances in the book.

The story is structured well and has a streamlined flow but it’s complex. I had been warned by the author and I’m passing on the warning. This book isn’t a light read, it requires time and attention. I had to focus and pay full attention to the book, and reading fast was out of question, as I had to slow down and absorb every bit so that I would be able to put it all together as it drew to climax.

Vasudev Murthy has drawn out an elaborate plan that covers a large time and space but in it all he keeps a hold on all the ends and leaves no loose ends. The pace of the story is constant right to the end, a slow and steady pace that’s more academic than thrilling.

The story is narrated by Watson which is consistent with how Doyle went about it, though at times it’s Watson telling it as it was told to him by key characters, and at those times I felt a break in the flow and a slight disconnect. Vasudev Murthy’s hold on all the languages he uses is clearly good, well, I can’t vouch for the French, Arabic and Tamasheq but his English definitely had me reach out for the dictionary often.

In summary this is a good book but only for die hard Sherlock Holmes fans who have the time to do some intense reading. Deeply researched and well written, this book comes recommended by Roger Johnson, the Editor of The Sherlock Holmes Journal and having read the book I now see why. Pick it up at your own peril, for this is heavy and you’ve been warned. :)

Buy On: Amazon India | Amazon US

About the Author:

Vasudev Murthy

Vasudev Murthy writes on music, humour, management and crime. A violinist and animal rights activist, Vasudev lives with his family and five snoring dogs in Bangalore, India. He has been published by Bloomsbury, HarperCollins, Editora Vestigio (Brazil), Poisoned Pen Press, Sage, Rupa, LiFi, Gamesman (Korea) and Kokushu (Japan).

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