The Return of the Pharaoh: From the Reminiscences of John H. Watson, M.D.

Written by Nicholas Meyer
Review by Ann Chamberlin

In 1910, Dr. John Watson takes his wife to Egypt for a tuberculosis cure. While she gets mud packs, he discovers the mysterious disappearance of Egyptologists from the British aristocracy. And someone wearing Watson’s own army uniform, stains and all, is incognito in El Fishawy Café before him. It’s his old friend Sherlock Holmes, on the case. With the help of the real excavation personage, Howard Carter, they explore hidden hotel rooms, exotic dancers, pyramids, long-buried tombs, and unravel the plot that goes back in time to the Eighteenth Dynasty as well.

Nicholas Meyer gave us the bestselling Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1974) and movie (1977), concerning an earlier unknown adventure of the master sleuth in which real-life Sigmund Freud put in a cameo performance. Star Trek sequels and other blockbuster movies formed Meyer’s oeuvres in between. With this background, plotting and story are flawless, hitting every beat spot on. And the self-conscious parallels between the Covid we’ve all lived through and the tuberculosis of a hundred years ago are deftly done.

We even get pictures amid the text, a Wikimedia panoply of Rosetta stone and statues of Akhenaten. A formulaic escape read that goes down like honey-sweetened jasmine tea from the ewer on the back of a Cairene street vendor.