“There are pastiches, and then there are superlative pastiches.
Tom Turley’s novella, ‘The Case of the Dying Emperor’ (available on Kindle) falls firmly into the latter category. A question over the last illness of Frederick III, German Emperor and King of Prussia for 99 days in 1888, sends Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson to the Continent to investigate. A cast of real historical personages and places appear, each drawn with a level of detail and observation worthy of Holmes himself.
I had a sketchy knowledge of Frederick III, enough to know that his short reign is one of the great ‘What Ifs’ of history. Succeeded by his son, Wilhelm II, the infamous ‘Kaiser Bill’ as he was dubbed in Britain during the First World War, it is interesting to speculate on the course of history had Frederick lived. Given the international implications at the time, it is just the sort of case where you can imagine certain important figures turning to Holmes for his opinion. Watson also gets to shine, both with references to his background (based on the Baring-Gould model) and in his medical expertise. Add to this canon fidelity, and there’s plenty to keep the most ardent Sherlock Holmes fan, as well as the casual reader, engaged and delighted.
A problem I have found in the past with stories set in real historical settings is either too much or too little period detail. Mr Turley achieves an admirable balance. There are footnotes for those who want more information; if not, there is enough in the story to explain what is happening. Any necessary explanation flows naturally in conversations with appropriate language for the period between the principal characters without ever overwhelming the reader. Touches like these give the work an authentic feel, sweeping me up in the illusion that I really was reading a story written at the time.
It’s not often I get to say this, but ‘The Case of the Dying Emperor’ truly is a masterclass in the fine art of the Sherlock Holmes pastiche. Faithfulness to the characters, dedicated research and a clear, erudite style of writing makes this a story that I will be returning to again and again.”
Reviewed by S.F. Bennett
Available on Kindle.