Several years ago, when I was sequestered on Okinawa with a brand new baby, I took to visiting the local library with increasing frequency. Inspired by the recent Sherlock Holmes movies and the BBC television series Sherlock, I took it upon myself to read the entire canon of works featuring the good detective. While I admit to liking the television adaptations more, the stories themselves were interesting enough to keep me turning the pages.
So I was more than excited when I saw the newest addition to the Sherlock Holmes collection, Sherlock Holmes, The Missing Years: Japan. The story takes place in the intervening time between when Sherlock allegedly perished in the plunge from the Reichenbach Falls and when he re-emerged in London several years later. Watson, his ever-trustworthy friend, receives a letter that he believes is from Holmes and embarks on a steamer journey from Europe to the Middle East to Asia, all the while alluding danger and reacquainting himself with the friend he thought dead along the way. When they arrive in Japan, the duo solve the mysterious death of a priest at Kyoto’s famed Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) before exposing a double agent in the Japanese government.
It all sounds rather intriguing but I must admit, the story did not hold up for me. I picked up this book first and foremost because the title declares it to be about Japan. Yet much of the novel takes place elsewhere, with Holmes and Watson perpetually en route to the land of the rising sun but never actually getting there until the last few chapters of the book. The Japanese tie-in earlier in the story comes in the form of an alleged yakuza whom Holmes believes is following them, but even there, the connection is weak at best.
When Holmes and Watson DO finally arrive in Japan (in Kyushu, to be exact), they face the additional challenge of having to identify the cause of death of a priest at Kinkaku-ji as they make their way overland to Tokyo. Yet while I anticipated this particular mystery would form the bulk of the novel’s drama, it lasted all of about twelve pages. The resolution was also rather disappointing and it seemed this subplot was merely added to liven up a journey that was fast growing dull.
It’s odd for me to review a novel that in the end, I don’t really recommend. But I wanted to give you all the heads up since my love of Japan was what drew me to this novel in the first place and mystery novels set in this particular geographic location are slim on the ground. If you like Sherlock Holmes’ stories, I’d say you’d rate this as average or fair. If you are expecting a novel that revolves around Japan, I would definitely look elsewhere.