Synopses & Reviews
Chapter One>The Present
Holmes was dead: to begin with. And had been dead for well onto two years. And who was I without Holmes? He had been my dearest friend. He had served as that fixed point around which my life as a storyteller revolved.
Sometimes, on dreary December days such as this one, when the fog was so thick over London one could scarcely tell whether it was woman or man who hurried by in the street, I would think that I had seen him. When Holmes seemed to brush by me in the gloom, I could not refrain from hastening my aged legs and ignoring my ancient wound from Afghanistan in order to overtake the figure. Then in the cone of light falling from some street lamp, the veils of obscuring mist would be turned back and there would stand, perhaps, some sharp-nosed woman, dressed in the wretched modern coat and boots, loaded with Christmas packages.
The idea of Holmes had teased my vision so much that I had determined to take up my pen, to exorcise the ghost by writing about him again. Not an isolated adventure, but a definitive biography. On the first day of winter, December 21, 1922 advertisement appeared in the Times:
The Biography of Sherlock Holmes To be Written. His Chronicler Requests interview, Letters, Etc.. Concerning him. Contact John Watson M.D., 221B Baker Street.
Not wishing to spend the day alone at Baker Street, waiting for replies and fidgeting, I had stayed in theBritish Museum till nightfall. As I hurried home, a terrible wind blew the fog about and made my arms seem thin and unprotected inside my greatcoat. The winter wind howled as though it were alone and weary of this world.
When a large dog sauntered out of a doorway, I started, envisioning that ghastly hound who had haunted the last of the Baskervilles until Holmes and I had ended its career on just such a gloomy night as this. But perceiving on second sight that this beast was of a more kindly disposition, I spoke and tried to snap my fingers through my thick leather gloves. "Here, fellow," I said. His breath and mine caused even denser balloons of mist to surround our heads. A door opened and the face of a man topped with violent red hair protruded. "You wouldn't be trying to pinch me dog, would you?" he said.
Embarrassed, I hurried on against the fierce wind toward the old Baker Street apartment. I would read again of the grand old pursuits, and I was eager for the warmth of our familiar lodgings. Soon after the last Mrs. Watson died, Holmes had left off beekeeping down in Sussex and had invited me to return with him to Baker Street.
A light that I had left on for myself shone through one of the three slender and arched windows. And there, on the other side of the drawn shade, wearing his Inverness and deerstalker, passed the shadow of Sherlock Holmes.
"Holmes!" I shouted, "Holmes!" more glad-hearted than terrified, for there, it seemed, he stood, silhouetted in the window above me. Once before I had thought him dead, in the falls of Reichenbach, and he had returned. The silhouette stooped and lifted-the violin! As he tucked it under his chin, I charged the door.
As I ran, the frail voice of Mrs. Hudson, blind now and confined to a wheelchair, called, "It's he!" Naturally, I supposed it was the great detective to whom she referred. "It's he!" The words spurred me on. I flung myself through the door, knowing I would now see Holmes standing in the lamplight. But alas, the lamp burned in solitude. There was no sign of Holmes. The closed violin case lay as usual on the table beside the lamp.
"Yes, I'll be down," I said dully. Of course it had been my own energetic footstep the old woman had triumphantly acknowledged. But oh, the difference between this miserable practitioner and that great cold intellect who once inhabited these rooms. I waved the girl away.
Now, I said to myself, things are going too far. Anyone might mistake a shape or two at night in a winter street, but one must not allow oneself to go charging up stairs after beings who could exist only in one's own mind. Sure to induce heart failure, I severely told myself, in a man of my extreme age. I recalled how the old pump had worked. Very well, after all. After all, perhaps not theworst way to 90.
Feeling hot, I threw my coat open and walked slowly to the mantel. I took down the Persian slipper in which Holmes had always housed his shag. In fact, I kept a bit of the tobacco there myself now. I buried my nose in the toe of the slipper to have a comforting whiff.
But the shadow had moved! He had tacked the violin under his...
"In this sentimental adventure, Ms. Naslund is largely faithful to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's style, and her narrative entertains at breakneck speed, albeit at the expense of sustained tension. Devotees of the detective should appreciate her attempt to close the one case in which Holmes failed to bring a miscreant to justice, but may be alarmed at the new facet of his character alluded to in the title." New York Times Book Review
"A triumphant reimagining of the Sherlock Holmes canon that identifies, once and for all, the great love of the detective's life. Detailed summary would wreck the inventive plot by unmasking its mysteries, which begin to unfold when Dr. Watson's 1922 announcement that he is writing a biography of his late friend brings a storm of threats and warnings against the project." Kirkus Review
How did Sherlock Homes come into possession of a true Stardivarius? Who was the one true love of the great detective's life? And what shattering disappointment left the detective with feelings of overwhelming melancholy? As Holme's great friend, Dr. Watson, sets out to answer these questions and recount the thrilling "lost" adventure of Holmes's attempt to rescue the love of his life from a mad King Ludwig of Bavaria, his own life is threatened by a figure in a familiar Inverness coat and deerstalker cap.
In this extraordinary novel, Sena Jeter Naslund, author of the critically acclaimed national bestseller Ahab's Wife, brilliantly reweaves the colorfully cryptic, fog-enshrouded world of Sherlock in Love is at once a rewarding entertainment and a remarkable homage to the greatest sleuth in literature.
About the Author
Sena Jeter Naslund is Distinguished Teaching Professor and Writer in Residence at the University of Louisville and program director of the Spalding University brief-residency MFA in Writing. A winner of the Harper Lee Award for Distinguished Writers, she is the author of eight previous works of fiction, which have been translated into eight languages and published in Australia and the United Kingdom, where her book Ahab's Wife was a finalist for the Orange Prize. Those who've read her novel Abundance, A Novel of Marie Antoinette will recognize the character of Élisabeth Vigée-Le Brun from that book. Naslund lives in Louisville, Kentucky.