"The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Murder at Sorrow's Crown" by Steven Savile and Robert Greenberger is a thoroughly enjoyable read that takes the reader back to the summer of 1881. Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson are trying to establish themselves: Holmes as a consulting detective and Watson as a medical doctor, but pickings are thin and there's rent to be paid on the rooms they share at 221B Baker Street. A succession of unpromising clients is turned away by Holmes, before a Mrs Hermione Wynter arrives without an appointment. Mrs Wynter's son, a young officer in the Royal Navy, has gone missing. His ship has returned from South Africa without him, and the Admiralty has blocked her efforts to discover what has become of her son. There's even been a suggestion that Lieutenant Norbert Wynter deserted in the face of the enemy, but the circumstances seem strangely elusive. It's as if the navy has something to hide.
The story that follows is fast paced and comes with a plentiful supply of twists and turns that keep the reader guessing to the end. Holmes and Watson try a head-on approach to the Admiralty, but their efforts are rebuffed. Meanwhile, Holmes is intrigued by a seemingly far-fetched notion that the death of ex-prime minister Benjamin Disraeli earlier in the year is somehow linked with the disappearance of Lieutenant Wynter. The investigation seems to be going nowhere, but assaults on both Holmes and Watson by men who have a naval bearing suggest someone is getting worried by their activities. And then a determined attempt on Holmes' life shows he must be getting close to a discovery of importance.
The only problem with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's novels and short stories about Sherlock Holmes and John Watson is that he simply didn't write enough of them to satisfy the appetites of the huge fan-base out there. This grew rapidly enough to persuade the author to resurrect Holmes from the dead at one point, and it has remained large ever since. Given the number of films and TV adaptions there have been over the years, it comes as a surprise to find that Conan Doyle himself only wrote four novels and 56 short stories about the duo. As a result, the characters of Holmes and Watson have become the focus of the attentions of many other authors in recent years, sometimes very successfully, sometimes less so.
How does "Murder at Sorrow's Crown" stack up against Conan Doyle's originals? Pretty well. Certainly well enough to allow the reader, even one who once read all the original Holmes novels and stories as a continuous series, to be carried along by the characters and the story. "Murder at Sorrow's Crown" brings to the world of Holmes some very modern sensibilities about state secrecy, political expediency and the activities of some of the government's more unacknowledged servants. But those are all things that existed at the time, as amply demonstrated by the passing into legislation of the first Official Secrets Act only eight years after the events described here. This is an excellent addition to the existing body of work about Holmes and Watson, with the only stumble we noticed being their arrival at King's Cross Station over two hours early for a train to Newcastle. The pair's use of Bradshaw's railway guide was referred to twice by Conan Doyle, so it seems an unlikely mistake for them to have made. But it's a minor point that doesn't get in the way of the flow of the story, even for the minority of readers who might notice it.