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Sherlock Holmes and a Scandal in Batavia
Jeremy Kingston

Robert Hale
31 July 2015 / ISBN 9780719816116

Reviewed by Rachel A Hyde


Sherlock and Watson receive a visit from an agitated man who turns out to be Prince Alexander, the heir to the Dutch throne. He recounts a tale of plots and poison, and begs for their help. Soon they are trying to prevent an assassination, dealing with a master criminal, and hobnobbing with the highest in the land.

Historical fact meets fiction in this tale of crowns and criminals. It is 1884, early in Holmes' career, and instead of Moriarty we have John Klee, a man of a thousand faces and assassin for hire. The chase to aid Alexander and the doomed Duke of Albany runs across to France and the well-described marshes of the Camargue to culminate in the Battle of the Flowers. Some of it actually took place: Fenian explosions, Queen Victoria's haemophiliac offspring, the fated male line of Holland, etc., and the book has addendum and notes at the back to explain the factual parts. All this is woven together with an interesting "what if" connection, but to say more would spoil the story. I've read more bizarre Holmes tales, but this one manages to show instead the strangeness of actual historical figures and events. Mr Kingston has a good stab at Watson's narrator voice and gets it mostly right, with a recognizable Holmes who is inscrutable, volatile and a force of nature. Overall, an interesting addition to the canon of pastiches.

Reviewed 2015