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Posts Tagged ‘emerging nation’

SHERLOCK HOLMES: A SCANDAL IN JAPAN by Keisuke Matsuoka: Book Review

Where was Sherlock Holmes in the years following his supposed death at the Reichenbach Falls?  Thanks to Keisuke Matsuoka’s new novel, we now know that having to flee arrest and possible imprisonment for the murder of Professor Moriarty, Sherlock is sent to Japan by his brother Mycroft.

As clever as Sherlock had been in escaping from death at the hands of Professor Moriarty at the Falls, he unfortunately was seen by Moriarty’s aide-de-camp, Colonel Moran.  When Moran returns to London he tells the members of his gang that Sherlock is still alive, thus explaining Mycroft’s insistence that his brother leave London until all the gang members are imprisoned.  So, very reluctantly, Sherlock undertakes a most unpleasant sea voyage to Japan, one of the few countries not part of the British Empire or closely allied to it. 

It turns out that there are two men in Japan whom Sherlock had met when he and Mycroft were urchins on the London streets.  Hirobumi Ito is one of those men.  A former prime minister, he is now head of the Privy Council and one of the emperor’s closest advisors.  It is 1891, a very difficult time for Japan.  The country has become a pawn in the battle between Great Britain and Russia, both of whom see the small nation as a backward place, small and unable to defend itself.

There is a current problem in Japan which, if not handled properly, could result in a war with Russia that would probably be catastrophic for the Eastern nation.  Shortly before Sherlock’s arrival, a Japanese policeman named Sanzo Tsuda attempted to assassinate one of Tsar Nicolas’ sons who was on a royal visit.  This has sparked an international crisis, and the detective appears just in time to be thrust into the middle of it.

Ketsuke Matsuoka has taken actual events and included Sherlock Holmes, whose arrival is very much to the benefit of the Japanese government.  In “real life,” how did they ever manage without him?  The author has been very respectful of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation, giving him the dialogue that readers of the canon can imagine him speaking and not adding anything about his past that was not mentioned in the original works.  Except, of course, for his visit to Japan, which Mr. Matsuoka makes totally believable.

Having just taught a class in which we read The Hound of the Baskervilles and several short stories featuring Holmes, I was a bit wary of this new adventure in his life.  However, I was truly impressed and delighted by how seamlessly A Scandal in Japan fit into Doyle’s novels.  Sherlock and his brother behave exactly as this reader imagines they would have if the detective actually had been forced to leave his country and try to acclimate himself to such a different culture.  The portrait of late 19th-century Japan is fascinating.

You can read more about Keisuke Matsuoka at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.