With conspiracy theories so much in the news these days, Nicholas Meyer’s new Sherlock Holmes’ mystery is particularly well timed. This novel is Meyer’s fourth to continue the iconic series penned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Following in the footsteps of such a master would be enough to give even a talented author writer’s block. Fortunately, Meyer is not the least bit intimidated by following in Doyle’s wake. The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols is his best yet and a gift to fans who are hungry for another Holmes’ outing.
Holmes’ brother Mycroft implores Holmes to undertake a clandestine assignment. An agent of the British Secret Service has been found dead, floating in the Thames. The woman had smuggled into Britain a manuscript that seems to be the minutes of a secret group whose aim is to target governments and take over the world. Called the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the paper is actually a fabrication intended to stir up hatred of the Jews. Mycroft asks Holmes to travel to Russia to find the person who wrote the paper and obtain a confession that it’s a fake.
Watson signs on for the assignment, while his new wife, Juliet translates the document and determines that it is plagiarized from a French paper that aimed criticism at Napoleon III. While Juliet remains behind, accompanying Holmes and Watson is a mysterious Russian woman, Anna Strunsky, who manages to charm even Holmes. The trio head for Paris where they board the Orient Express which will take them into Tsarist Russia. The cat and mouse game becomes dangerous. Holmes and his team must stay the course while also dodging those who will stop at nothing to make sure Holmes fails.
Meyer succeeds on all levels. Watson, who chronicled Homes’ exploits, once again serves as the narrator. The dialogue is spot on, never seeming fake or forced. The descriptions of the places and people are detailed but never slow down the action. There are enough red herrings to keep us guessing until the end.
While Holmes is successful, even these days, there are many who believe in the Jewish conspiracy set forth in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion fueling antisemitism. Even the talents of the world’s greatest detective isn’t enough to change people who harbor prejudice against a group of people. Conspiracy theories die hard.
The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols