About the author:
Ted Riccardi is professor emeritus in the Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia University. He has served as the counselor of cultural affairs at the United States embassy in New Delhi.
Cover and blurb:
Just a girl in a red veil on the cover, and the blurb speaks of Holmes’ travel in Asia and the cases he found there.
When you take a classic and try to reinvent it, the essence of the classic still stay in the mind. The challenge is to put your idea across, yet not change that essence completely. It’s like what Ashok Banker has done to Indian mythology perhaps. Take the story, own it, retell it but not lose the magic. But that’s Indian mythology. When it’s a world renowned criminal detective, that challenge is a little harder. Over the last two years, I have read a couple of Sherlock Holmes fiction written by other authors. One has been loved, the other not. But it’s the character of Holmes that attracts me, so I didn’t hesitate to read.
The book’s premise is that Sherlock Holmes is not dead. He’s survived at the Reichenbach falls and traveled through Asia by himself, perfecting his skills and finding himself in new adventures, but without the good Dr. Watson at his side. He returns to Baker Street after his adventures, and on Watson’s curiosity being piqued by a letter, and crimes in London not piquing his, Holmes narrates stories starting with his adventure in India titled The Viceroy’s Assistant. The other stories include The Case of Hodgson’s Ghost, Envoy to Lhasa, The Singular Tragedy of Trincomalee, The Case of the French Savant, The Mystery at Jaisalmer, The Case of Anton Furer, The Giant Rat of Sumatra and Murder in the Thieves’ Bazaar.
For a Holmes fan like me, the stories lacked the Sherlock feel to it. The triple narration in the story is what brings it that confusion I guess. At one time, Holmes is saying a dialogue. Then Watson comes in saying Holmes is saying it, and then the character that features in the story starts a dialogue in first person. So the thrill that a scene begets, that’s kind of lost. The sense of thrill does exist, it hovers over the stories in a Holmes manner, but it doesn’t come to life like a Conan Doyle does. The author’s effort to bring that gripping narration is evident, and he succeeds in telling us the stories in simple language, and also manages to successfully is to create the setting and bring that to picturize in my mind easily. Overall, the stories were decent. Not fantastic, but not a flop either. Starts out well, but becomes slow toward the end.
I think I should mention that the cover design also felt strange. It is a Sherlock Holmes story. A girl in a red scarf or veil didn’t quite fit that magnitude in my opinion.
Title: The Lost Years of Sherlock Holmes
Author: Ted Riccardi
Genre: Crime Fiction
Publishers: Jaico Books
Price: INR 275
(Oct 8th, 2013)