The Final Page of Baker Street
This is a highly entertaining entry in the Sherlock Holmes canon that posits that Holmes’ last page was one “Master R.T. Chandler.” He preferred to be called Raymond, but in Holmes’ household, all pages were called Billy. Chandler’s mother, who was Irish, enjoined Holmes to discover what her son Raymond was getting up to at Dulwich College. Once his mostly innocent outings were discovered, Holmes offered him the page position after school and on weekends and Dr. Watson encouraged the budding writer.
The meat of the story, with Watson continuing as narrator, focuses on Chandler’s post-page, pre-Los Angeles years. Holmes has retired to Sussex and beekeeping, and one night Chandler brings an inebriated acquaintance to Watson’s home. That acquaintance, Terrence Leonard, scarred survivor of the Boer War, later becomes a suspect in the brutal murder of his wife, daughter of an influential publisher. Naturally, Holmes is brought out of retirement, and Holmes, Watson, and Chandler are drawn into another mystery in which Chandler gets to display his narrative skills, and Watson reveals himself to be a bit of a prude.
Victor clearly enjoys setting the stage for Chandler’s future career, imagining what would be the impact of one of the world’s most famous fictional British detectives on what would become a quintessentially American crime novelist. It isn’t necessary to be a Chandler fan to admire the juxtaposition of these two styles. Victor’s conceit is that he’s the editor, not the author of this manuscript, and in his afterword, he made me believe that Chandler was actually a protégé of the famous Sherlock Holmes.