The Magazine for Crime & Mystery



Val McDermid Interview

Nevada Barr on writing HUNTING SEASON plus an excerpt

Paul Doherty's short story THE KYRIE MAN

Stark Contrasts Michael Carlson examines the pulp fiction of Richard Stark

Have you got what it takes to be a Writer? by Fiona Shoop

It Could Only Happen in Hollywood

The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes - The Missing Years

Edited by Jamyang Norbuone

John Murray £9.99

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Reviewed by Ayo Onatade

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I have always been wary about pastiches,especially the one's based on Sherlock Holmes and have often wondered whether or not the authors have managed to retain that unique characterisation that made readers love the originals and see them as classics.
The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes is based on the two years that Sherlock Holmes spent in Tibet. It was in 1891 that the British readers were informed that Sherlock Holmes had perished at the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland after a struggle with his arch enemy Professor Moriarty. By great popular demand two years later Conan Doyle resurrected Holmes; who goes on to inform a stunned Dr Watson where he had been the last two years. Everybody knows about Sherlock Holmes journey to the East but no one really knew who his travelling companion was at the time. After years of research by Tibetan "Baker Street Irregular" Jamyang Norbu reveals that the wily Bengali scholar and spy, Hurree Chunder Mookerjee from the Rudyard Kipling masterpiece Kim was in fact Holmes' travelling companion. Unknown to Watson he has been reading about the exploits of his friend Holmes in the newspapers under the guise of Norwegian explorer, Sigerson.
A Norwegian named Sigerson lands at Bombay's Sassoon docks, and is greeted by Mookerjee, who is investigating Holmes for his department. Not long after Holmes' arrival at the Taj Mahal Hotel, there is a bloody murder in his room, an attack originally intended for him. Laced with fascinating esoterica and tantric trivia, the reader is led on the trail of the assailant, whom Holmes suspects is an envoy of the late professor. The trip leads him to Simla en route to Lhasa, where he is sucked into a conspiracy to kill the Dalai Lama by Chinese imperials. It is now Holmes' onus to protect the 14-year-old god-king and wipe out the vengeful Moriarty, who returns with strange occult powers. This is certainly a good angle, There are those two missing years, a period where according to Holmes he not only visited the forbidden city of Lhasa, but was the first European to do so. As far as I am aware this is the first time this period in Holmes's life has been covered.
Here we have a work of fiction which reveals the secret of Holmes's missing years in India and Tibet. Mandala strongly reminds the reader of Kipling's India with Tibetan mythology mixed in. The basic premise of this book is to let followers of Holmes know what exactly happened during his visit to Tibet during the two years Doyle stopped writing the Sherlock Holmes stories. However, this book also has a strong religious and political statement, one which for me personally marred the story. This is supposed to be a work of fiction not a political playground. To give the author credit, one hole he did not fall into like a number of the other pastiches is by making Watson the narrator.
For some lovers of Sherlock Holmes pastiches this might be a welcome addition to the series. I, on the other hand, was not that impressed and felt very let down. This book came across more like a supernatural thriller (think X- Files) especially towards the end, than the story of Sherlock Holmes's years in Tibet which is a shame. I enjoyed the first half of the book but certainly found the second half just didn't work, and under any other circumstances I would not have read this book.

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