Sherlock Holmes is being visited by his cousin, Dr. Henry Vernier, when Mr. Donald Wheelwright arrives to ask for his help.
During a ball which Wheelwright attended with his wife, a gypsy woman made an appearance and cursed all those attending the event while singling his wife out for specific threats. Recently Wheelwright’s wife, Violet, has found a further, written, threat in their library. Worried about his wife’s safety, Wheelwright wants Holmes to investigate the gypsy and her threat and put an end to the whole affair.
Soon after starting the investigation it becomes clear that others who were present at the ball have felt the results of the curse. A Lord has committed suicide, others have fallen into ruin and an acquaintance of the Wheelwrights discovers that a very valuable necklace has been stolen from his safe.
Assisted by his cousin Henry, Holmes starts his investigation into all these related mysteries and soon suspects that he may be up against the most devious opponent of his career. Professor Moriarty may have been a figment of Dr. Watson’s imagination, but the mind Holmes is trying to out-think now might just be a real-life Moriarty; a criminal mastermind without scruples and an intelligence to match his own who is weaving a web destined to trap all in its reach.
Meanwhile, Henry’s wife Michelle gets drawn into the investigation because she is both Violet Wheelwrights physician and friend.
As the threats against and attacks upon Violet increase, Holmes clearly finds himself drawn to this beautiful, intelligent but troubled woman. The identity of the gypsy woman and of the person(s) delivering the threats and attacks remains obscure though, as does the identity of the mastermind behind the whole affair.
This was a very interesting take on the original Sherlock Holmes stories. For starters, there’s no sign of a Dr. Watson in this story, in fact the man only gets mentioned in relation to his lose allegiance to the truth when writing the original stories.
Instead, this book is narrated by both Dr. Henry Vernier and his wife Michelle, which gives a the reader a dual view of what is happening and maybe a better chance to come to their own conclusions as far as the mystery is concerned.
Except for Watson all the usual features of the Sherlock Holmes stories are present in this book. There are Holmes’ famous disguises, his dealings with those in the lower regions of society, his arrogance and single-mindedness and his reluctance to share his thoughts until he is ready to reveal all to both his fellow characters and the reader.
Through Michelle Doudet-Vernier, who spends a lot of her time treating those less fortunate, the reader gets an insight to all that is wrong with society in the late 19th century, while the setting of the mystery in an upper-class environment makes for a great contrast.
The idea of Holmes in love and unable to deal with his feelings and their consequences, brings a nice twist to the story. Should this story have a sequel it would be great to see how that particular story-line might develop.
I did find both Vernier and his wife a bit too innocent, and oblivious to be completely credible, but I guess they were described that way to make the contrast with Holmes’ genius more obvious.
I do have to say that the solution to this mystery did not come as a great surprise to me, and I don’t think it will to most other readers. However, that didn’t take away from the pleasure reading this story gave me, and there is a certain satisfaction in coming to the right conclusions while reading any mystery.
Overall this was an enjoyable excursion into the world of Sherlock Holmes. It stayed close enough to the original to be completely recognisable while introducing enough new ingredients to make this a fresh reading experience.