Book Review: The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols by Nicholas Meyer
By Ray PalenNovember 8, 2019
January 1905: Holmes and Watson are summoned by Holmes’ brother Mycroft to undertake a clandestine investigation. An agent of the British Secret Service has been found floating in the Thames, carrying a manuscript smuggled into England at the cost of her life. The pages purport to be the minutes of a meeting of a secret group intent on nothing less than taking over the world.
Arguably, the most popular and recognizable character in all of fiction has been Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s brilliant detective—Sherlock Holmes. There have literally been thousands of other authors, TV, and Film-makers continuing his legacy long after Doyle’s passing in 1930.
One of the first authors to truly bring Holmes back to life was Nicholas Meyer. Meyer had huge success with a trio of novels featuring Sherlock Holmes and his trusty friend Doctor John H. Watson that began in 1974 with the release of The Seven-Percent Solution—a novel which also inspired a film version that starred Nicol Williamson, Alan Arkin, Vanessa Redgrave, and Robert Duvall. He followed that up with The West End Horror in 1976 and then The Canary Trainer in 1993. There is no reason given for why Meyer waited twenty-six years to release a new Sherlock Holmes novel, but I can firmly aver that he has not lost any steam as The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols is a top-notch novel and quite worthy addition to the ever-growing Sherlock Holmes ‘new’ releases.
As with the prior Holmes novels, this one is also adapted from the journals of John H. Watson, M.D. To maintain this level of authenticity there are even parts of the story that remain incomplete or unfinished, alluding to missing or unintelligible parts of the original source document. Meyer humbly confesses in the opening forward piece entitled “A Word Of Explanation” that any errors found within this adaptation are his and not Watson’s.
Things begin in January of 1905. This is significant due to the fact that January 6th was Holmes’ birthday. This birthday was a momentous one as it marked his 50th—an age where most detectives had already hung things up or were backsliding into retirement. Not so for Holmes, as the date or birthday hold no sway over him. Shortly after Holmes had been talking with Watson about how there may be nothing now left for him but retirement, Holmes’s brother Mycroft approaches Sherlock with an intriguing new mission. As a representative of His Majesty’s Government, Mycroft knows when matters require a skill he cannot himself provide he often turns to brother Sherlock. Mycroft hands over an envelope containing an incomplete document. This document was found on the body of a murdered member of the British Secret Service, lending credence to its importance.
The pages that Sherlock now holds in his possession speak to a meeting of a secret group with the highest of all goals as their sole purpose—full global dominance.
The pages that Sherlock now holds in his possession speak to a meeting of a secret group with the highest of all goals as their sole purpose—full global dominance. Holmes, accompanied by Watson will now have to toe the line between detective and spy on a clandestine investigation that will involve finding out and potentially stopping this secret group should their threats be real. There is no need for a spoiler alert as the novel lets on quite early that the title of the document, translated from French, is “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion.” Those who are fully aware of world history will find this very ironic that the Jewish people should seek to take over the world just decades prior to Anti-Semitism of the highest order in the form of the WWII attempted genocide and Holocaust should occur.
There may be more murders than just that of the Secret Service Agent to deal with should Holmes not quickly be able to determine why the Zionists should publish such a dangerous document. If they were not the original authors, then who was behind it and what was their potentially deadly agenda? These answers will require Holmes and Watson to travel extensively. Their mission goes through Europe—specifically Paris, where this version of the documents allegedly originated—all the way into the heart of Tsarist Russia. The adventure also sees Holmes and Watson travel aboard the famous Orient Express—made that much more famous for mystery fans who recall the classic novel from Dame Agatha Christie that was set aboard the prominent railroad.
Holmes may be 50, but he is still sharp as a tack. In fact, it is the fact that he is able to so quickly see several moves ahead that puts him in danger—especially while he is in unfriendly territory like the heart of Russia. The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols gives us both Sherlock Holmes and author Nicholas Meyer at the top of their game in a novel that will not only appeal to all Holmes fans world-wide but may also be one of the best novels of 2019.