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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Sherlock Holmes and the King’s Evil by Donald Thomas

Sherlock Holmes and the King’s Evil by Donald Thomas – Another wonderful collection of short stories from a modern master of Holmes. Each of the stories features the scientific Holmes. He does not deduce solutions from his amazing powers of observation and analysis. Instead, he is the early criminalist applying the sciences of his time.

In the first story, The Case of the Tell-Tale Hands, Holmes is asked to determine why Arthur Savile, the brother of Raymond Ashley Savile who is the third Earl of Blagdon, has moved from eccentric behaviour to the bizarre. He has taken to wearing gloves inside and outside. He will take them off to play the piano but for few other reasons. More puzzling he has broken into his brother’s house in the middle of the night. Nothing has been taken. It appears he has only entered the house to spend a short time handling expensive porcelain pieces on display.

Holmes brings his fingerprint powder to the house. Carefully dusting the porcelain collection he determines which items were handled and where they were touched.

At the same time he has learned the brother, Arthur, is a believer in spiritualism and easily convinced there is real science in the palm reading.

As with the original stories by Doyle the evidence for the conclusions are there to be drawn but I, like Watson, rarely see them until Holmes explains their significance.

The second story, The Case of the King’s Evil, sees Holmes and Watson working to determine what has happened to two brothers, keepers of the Old Light beacon, missing in the quivering sands near the coast.

The twist is that Alice Castelnau, sister of the missing men, has come to engage Watson rather than Holmes for the investigation. To the amusement of Holmes and the bemusement of Watson, she is looking to Watson to solve the mystery.

A modest clue is pebble brought by Miss Castelnau. Holmes conducts tests upon the stone. Determining its specific gravity allows him to identify the mineral and provide a lead.

As they move forward I learned that the disease of scrofula was also known as the King’s Evil because almost a thousand years earlier the pope had given the English king, Edward the Confessor, the power to cure the condition by touching the victim.

The other three mysteries are as interesting and clever. The last story has Holmes dealing with a famous World War I incident involving the United States.

Thomas effectively treads the delicate line with Wason of avoiding him either being a fool or the equal of Sherlock. He is the earnest aide to the Great Detective. The difference between them is well illustrated by Holmes statement:

Indeed so. I fear that on such occasions, my dear Watson, you see but do not observe. The distinction is quite clear and not unimportant.

To read Thomas is to return to the Baker Street created by Arthur Conan Doyle. He brings out the brilliance, sly humour and quick wit of Holmes. It is great to see Holmes and Watson alive again on the printed page. (Feb. 16/13)
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My previous review of a Thomas collection of stories and a profile of the author can be found at (2010) - The Execution of Sherlock Holmes and (2012) - "T" is for Donald Serrell Thomas

2 comments:

  1. Bill - Normally I'm somewhat of a purist about fictional characters. For instance, I prefer the Rex Stout Nero Wolfe stories to the Robert Goldsborough stories and I prefer the Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes to Laurie R. King's. I think it's more my taste than anything objective. But this collection really looks tempting. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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  2. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I am equally a "purist". Thomas is making me impure with his stories featuring Holmes.

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