Sherlock Holmes and The Crowned Heads of Europe
Holmes and Watson tackle four cases in this pastiche. Spanning 1888 to 1913, the two investigate the death of the German Emperor Frederick, the death of the heir apparent to the Austrian Empire at Mayerling, the 1903 coup in Serbia, and an English shooting party in 1913 attended by Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife. Holmes and Watson’s efforts to calm troubled European waters and maintain political equilibrium in the years leading to the Great War make for fascinating reading.
The four cases sweep the reader into the world of late Victorian Europe, the dynasties and political forces that played out over the 35 years prior to the Great War. Still, Holmes cannot change history. As Watson states in his introduction: “Had the facts… been made public… each would have resulted in a European scandal. But in every instance, Holmes’s scrupulous investigation remained unresolved and the historical facts behind the cases faded with each passing year. Until… their long-delayed results combined with terrible effect, erupting in the cataclysm that brought down our vanished world.”
Tom Turley has done impeccable research; his PhD in late Victorian British defense policy undoubtedly helped. His scholarship shines through, and there are a goodly number of references listed for interested readers, although family trees, or lists of important players included in the book proper, might have made that information somewhat easier to access for non-erudite readers, myself included.
This is an immersive foray into the politics that led up to the First World War, and a pleasurable chance to spend time with the Great Detective and his assistant. A fun read, definitely recommended for Baker Street fans.