Hello again to my readers! So things have gone back to normal for the end of the year. The Halloween celebrations are over, bonfires have yet to be lit and the sky is getting darker earlier in the evening. I thought it might be fun to take a small trip back to 221B Baker Street and Holmes and Watson but something a bit different this time. Unlike last time when I relished the official Holmes canon in the company of Stephen Fry – link here for the interested Audiobook Review: Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – I will discuss two separate original creations.
The first discussed in this article is a story by Nicholas Meyer, author of the famous Holmes pastiche The Seven Percent Solution (1974) which was adapted into a film in 1976 by Meyer himself and its resultant sequels of sorts. Meyer is also famous outside of the world of Holmes for being the director and screenwriter of several films in the Star Trek series namely The Wrath of Khan, The Voyage Home and The Undiscovered Country, all of which are considered among the best works of Star Trek to date. Although personally I also have to mention his involvement with the animated musical The Prince of Egypt which I have to confess I am quite the fan of.
The story of the Peculiar Protocols is as follows: The time is January 1905. Holmes and Watson are summoned just as Holmes begins to tire of London’s current criminal element by Holmes’s brother Mycroft. Their services are required by ‘the establishment’ for an unofficial investigation. An agent of the Secret Service has been found floating in the Thames with the minutes of a certain meeting on her person. A secret group claims to be planning nothing less than the complete takeover of the modern world. Holmes is deservedly sceptical of such a notion but nonetheless has been tasked with one simple problem: Find out if these documents are authentic and if at all possible prevent their further spread throughout the world.
As you may have noticed, I haven’t named the documents. That is because…although I greatly enjoyed the story itself and thought it well written I don’t know how to feel about the focus of the story. To put it mildly Holmes and his Boswell are out of their depth and they will have to face the realities of the 20th (and 21st) Century in this particular case. When the ‘reveal’ of the documents first occurs the reader or listener may well find themselves caught in the flow and desperate to turn the page.
On a lighter note, Meyer’s writing style does feel appropriately Holmesian. There are some elements that seem ‘off’ here and there but on the whole he catches you in the rhythm of the tale and Watson as the storyteller does sound appropriately like the Watson of Doyle’s original stories with some character additions here and there. Meyer also has a Holmes who is particularly incensed and rightly so. Some readers may complain but I feel that in this ‘newly discovered’ case the tone is appropriately suitable. Meyer also includes some footnotes throughout the text regarding references to either previous Meyer cases or certain individuals involved who had quite the impact in our history.
Changing the topic of discussion to the narration – the story has two narrators throughout. The main narrator who admirably takes the parts of Homes, Watson and our other principal players and performs them with appropriate skill and enthusiasm is Downton Abbey actor David Robb. His Watson is better than several narrators I’ve heard over the years. Some attempts at accents across the story can be questionable however this is due to plot related reasoning rather than a failed accent on the narrator’s part. I would be keen to hear him again in some other audios Holmes related or otherwise.
The second narrator? Meyer himself who acts as the voice of the footnotes as well as the beginning explanation for how the manuscript was discovered. He also narrates a history of sorts at the end of the novel as well as taking part in an interview after the story is complete.
Overall I must say I find the story worth the read. It is very much an engaging story, well written, with the best of intentions. However despite this it can be a hard read or listen depending on the person. As I say the realities of the documents could make their inclusion somewhat tasteless in a Holmes story depending on individual viewpoints. Give Meyer’s fourth Holmes escapade a chance and you just might find a new favourite author. If an audio version of The Seven Percent Solution or a fifth Holmes story by Meyer were to appear, I would happily give both a listen.
My next review will be the second Holmesian adventure I mentioned earlier. In this case…further adventures by the pen of Bert Coules and the BBC’s radio dramatisation division.
After all, The Game’s Afoot!