Chapter I on deposit at coxs bank The published compendium of the many adventures that I undertook in the company of Mr. Sherlock Holmes contains only a few examples of those occasions on which we entered a variety of service that no loyal subject of this realm may refuse. I refer to cases in which the calls to action were delivered by various government ministries or agents, but in which our true employer was none other than that Great Personage whose name has come to define an age; herself, or her son, who has already displayed some of his mothers capacity for imprinting his name and character upon his era. To be plain, I refer to the Crown, and when I do, it must surely become more apparent why the greater portion of my accounts of such cases has come to rest—perhaps never to be removed or revealed— in the tin dispatch-box that I long ago entrusted to the vaults of Coxs Bank in Charing Cross. Among this momentous yet largely secret sub-collection, perhaps no one adventure touches on more delicate particulars than that which I have identified as the matter of the Italian Secretary. Whenever I joined Holmes in attempting to solve one of his “problems with a few points of interest,” it was an odds-on wager that lives would ultimately hang upon the outcome of our efforts; and during several such endeavours, no less than the continuation in power of one political party or another—or even the physical safety of the realm itself—was also exposed as having been at risk. But at no other time did the actual prestige of the monarchy (to say nothing of the mental peace of the Queen Empress herself) rest so perilously upon the successful conclusion of our exertions as it did during this case. The reasons underlying such a bold claim, I can relate; that those particulars will strike any reader as entirely credible, I can no more than hope. Indeed, they might have seemed, even to me, no more than fevered imaginings, a series of dreams inadequately separated from the waking world, had not Sherlock Holmes been ready with explanations for nearly all of the many twists and developments of the case. Nearly all . . . And because of those few unresolved questions, the matter of the Italian Secretary has always been, for me, a source of recurring doubts, rather than (as has more generally been the case regarding my experiences with Holmes) reassuring conclusions. These doubts, to be sure, have remained largely unspoken, despite their power. For there are recesses of the mind to which no man allows even his closest fellows access; not, that is, unless he wishes to hazard an involuntary sojourn in Bedlam. . . . Excerpted from The Italian Secretary by Caleb Carr.
Copyright © 2005 by Caleb Carr.
Published in November 2009 by St. Martins Griffin.
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