The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes
John Murray, London, 2000
The blurb on the back:
In 1891 the public was horrified to learn that Sherlock Holmes had perished in a deadly struggle with the archcriminal Professor Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls. Then, to their amazement, he reappeared two years later, informing the stunned Watson: 'I travelled for two years in Tibet, therefore, and amused myself by visiting Lhasa.'
It's a good angle, this one. There are those two missing years, a period when Holmes claims that he visited the forbidden city of Lhasa, the first European so to do. As far as I know, no one has ever covered this trip.
Norbu is an expert on Tibetan culture and an activist in the struggle for the liberation of that occupied country. He thus would seem to be pretty well qualified to write on Holmes' journey. He's helped in his endeavours by the absence of Watson, allowing the narrative to be quite legitimately taken by an outsider, in this case Hurree Chunder Mookerjee. You may remember Hurree from Kipling's classic novel Kim, but - apart from a few sideswipes at Kipling's lack of discretion in writing the book - this falls someway short of the promised Rudyard Holmes hybrid.
The whole thing's not entirely satisfactory - the structure's too episodic and the Tibetan propaganda a touch too heavy - but there are some fine moments and it's an honourable endeavour. Oh, and the ending is genuinely touching.