Nicholas Meyer, author of the famous The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, follows that up with another Holmes pastiche, this time with much more serious content: debunking the antisemitic hoax The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It’s still a Holmes-and-Watson story, but with a message and a lot of history. In this current world of Donald Trump and political misinformation and disinformation, it even achieves a level of importance that is not usual in the genre.
But don’t for a moment think that it’s a dry historical screed! It is still a Sherlockian mystery, with the usual characters and the usual reasoning. There’s also a lot about the Orient Express (shades of Agatha Christie?), which of course interested me. And a lot about languages, as Holmes and Watson travel through eastern Europe to Russia in 1905. Also, of course, some international intrigue. Some reviewers found the pace slow, which I suppose it is, but that didn’t bother me in the least. If you just want a mystery, with no history and no politics, then this is probably not the book for you.
I listened to the well-done audiobook version, which gave a curious flavor to the many footnotes. The narrator, David Robb, adopted two different voices, one for the text and one for the footnotes. This worked reasonably well, but it was still a bit distracting for what was a work of fiction. Of course it purports not to be fiction, so in a way the footnotes actually helped the verisimilitude.