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Review of The Stone of Destiny

19 Jun

Sherlock Holmes has been to Ireland before – but never for stakes as high as this.

Over the course of his professional career, Sherlock Holmes has visited Ireland on numerous occasions. Although none of these sojourns were chronicled by the first Literary Agent, who only wrote a paltry 60 stories, other “editors” of Watson’s notes have provided quite a few details about some of Holmes and Watson’s other trips to The Emerald Isle.

A few of these cases – but not all – include: “The Matter of the Sudden Death of Cardinal Tosca” in “My Dear Watson” and “The Abergavenny Murder” in “The Vital Essence”, both by Sherlockian scholar David Hammer; “The Irish Professor” in “Sherlock Holmes: The Tandridge Hall Murder”  by Eddie Maguire; and “The Case of the Mysterious Painting”, an excellent Fan-Fiction by Don Conlan. But perhaps none of his visits across the Irish Sea have such great consequences as in “The Stone of Destiny” by Richard T. Ryan.

The book opens with the death of Queen Victoria in February 1901. Irish nationalists see this an opportunity and steal the Stone of Scone, whose long history includes its traditional use in the coronation of new kings and queens of England.

The Stone has been stolen before, of course. In late 1950, it was taken by a group of Scottish students. And before that, it was stolen in late 1930, and subsequently recovered by Solar Pons, “The Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street”, as related in the Pons tale, “The Adventure of the Stone of Scone”. It’s good to know that Holmes was able to help when it was stolen even earlier. (One has to wonder if Solar Pons, when investigating the later theft, knew of Holmes’s involvement nearly three decades earlier.)

After the Stone is taken, Holmes and Watson travel to Ireland, wherein Holmes gains great practice on something of a trial run for the years 1912-1914, when he will again be undercover, then taking on the identity of the Irish-American Altamont in an affair covered in the Canonical story, “His Last Bow”. No doubt, his experiences in this narrative gave him great insight as to how to portray an Irishman a decade later.

It’s fun in this story to see Holmes and Watson revisit sites where they have traveled in previous adventures. For instance, in this tale Watson visits Blarney Castle, the same place where he and Holmes had already solved a case in March 1896, as related in the radio episode, “The Adventure of the Blarney Stone” (“The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”, March 18, 1946, by Denis Green and Anthony Boucher), and also in the text version of the same adventure, included in “The Lost Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” by Don Greenwald.

Like in his previous book, “The Vatican Cameos”, Ryan alternates between Watson’s part of the story, and an equal amount of time given over to a third-person narrative chronicling the actions of the criminals. In “The Vatican Cameos”, the alternating non-Watson chapters were set hundreds of years before Holmes and Watson’s part of the story, and could have been removed and never missed, as they only served to provide some background details. In this case, the alternating chapters are concurrent with Holmes’s investigation.

There were a few errors in the book, as in chapter titles with dates that don’t quite match up with the chronology of what’s happening in the text, and some London-related issues, such as when the third-person narrative indicates that Edgware Road is a short distance from Liverpool Street Station, and that one catches a train for Liverpool from Liverpool Street Station. (To get to Liverpool, one departs from Euston Station.) However, these issues, while a bit jarring, don’t take away from the overall quality of the story.

The Holmes that I admire most is the capable figure who has all the threads in hand, and is one step ahead of his opponents – or if he doesn’t have all the threads quite yet, he can at least make the other side think that he does. I really enjoyed that aspect of this book, and when you read it, you’ll understand what I mean and agree with me.

Reviewed by David Marcum

The Stone of Destiny: A Sherlock Holmes Adventure is available for from all good bookstores including The Strand Magazine, Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Waterstones UK and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Kindle.

Stone of Destiny FC mockup (2)

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