Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Sherlock Holmes and the Giant Rat of Sumatra

By Paul D Gilbert

Sherlock Holmes alludes to many other cases that Conan Doyle never got around to writing, and by their bizarre names it is easy to imagine that they might well be somewhat more extreme than the ones we know. One of the most tantalizingtantalising is surely that of the ship Matilda Briggs and the giant rat of Sumatra. Holmes reckoned that the world was not yet prepared for it…but why? When the ship was found floating in the wrong place with just a dying cabin boy on board, Lestrade consults Holmes and soon the game is afoot. Is it a coincidence that young archaeologist Daniel Collier also turns up at 221B with a packet of letters about his father, last seen on the trail of treasures in Sumatra, and now missing?

The trouble with these allusions is that it is easy for the imagination to run riot and imagine all kinds of bizarre horrors. Conan Doyle himself was adept at making his cases special with a unique touch of the grotesque and the unexpected, which is largely what makes them so excellent. Mr Gilbert is good at capturing the tone of Dr Watson, and it is easy to imagine the tale written at least by somebody from the 19th century; Sir Michael Collier’s letters detailing adventures in the Far East are particularly gripping and authentic.

The story could do however with more of a sense of the bizarre and fantastic, although the political scene in India and Sumatra has the topical ring of a modern news report about it and forms the strongest part of the story. There are some surprises here at the conclusion, but ultimately I was hoping for at least a frisson of the uncanny.

The Book

Robert Hale
31 August 2010
070908904X / 9780709089049
Historical Mystery / 1898 London and Sumatra
More at Amazon US || UK

The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2010
© 2010