1. An enduring regret of a Sherlockian is the relatively slim oeuvre of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle i.e 04 Novels and 56 shorts stories featuring Sherlock Holmes. The devotee of the Canon can read the Canon only so many times a year whereby he ends up asking for more like Oliver Twist. He does not mind the adventures being written by other authors as long as it features the Great Detective.
2. The appeal of Sherlock Holmes, across time, geography and cultures, have inspired writers such as i.e Stephen King, Nicholas Meyer et al to try their hand at a Sherlockian pastiche. As an old school Sherlockian for the past 36 years, I am always on a lookout for Sherlockian pastiches which are reverential towards the Canon and which do not take great liberties or deviations from them.
3. Knowing my particular interest, Ms Jayantika Ganguly, the General Secretary of the Sherlock Holmes Society of India referred me to the works of Richard T Ryan, whom I regret to say that I was not familiar with. The first book I read of the author was in fact his 6th in the series i.e. “Three may keep a secret”. As I started the book, I noticed a quote by Ramakrishna Parmahanasa, an Indian religious leader, endearing me to it right away . One seldom sees an Indian angle in any Sherlockian pastiche except if it is written by an Indian.
4. The books begins in a familiar manner with a note from a client seeking the appointment of the Great detective. However, Sherlock Holmes acts in an uncharacteristic manner in response to the note, which intrigued me, due to its sheer novelty. The adventure takes place shortly after the great hiatus
5. The adventure moves on forward with the characteristic deductions made by Sherlock Holmes and the inability of Dr Watson to match pace. In a sense, there is a sense of cosy familiarity with the book as it recreates the atmosphere of Victorian England by staying faithful to the Canon. Richard T Ryan gives Mrs Hudson a little more place in the spotlight. Wiggins, the head of the Baker Street Irregulars makes his appearance and plays an important part in the adventure.
6. The Tour de force in the book is the presence of a criminal mastermind, a worthy replacement of Professor Moriarity, whose shadows are broodingly present in the adventure. The author has also put to great use, his master’s degree in medieval literature, as he describes ancient enamelling techniques such as plique a jour on rare artefacts such as the Merode cup . Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson with bumbling assistance from Inspector Lestrade are pitted against a transnational gang of artefacts thieves, who are well organised and supported by a criminal mastermind.
7. The book is a racy read and I finished it off over the weekend. It made me familiar with certain aspects of the creation of medieval artefacts. It is a rare gem of a book which resolutely adheres to the ten principles of Sherlockian pastiche writing proposed by Willis G. Frick.
8. I would heartily recommend “Three may keep a secret” by Richard T Ryan to all aficionados of Sherlock Holmes as well as Dan Brown’s. It is a welcome addition to any Sherlockian’s library. It would be my endeavour to read the five other works of Richard T Ryan.