From the Edgar®-nominated author of Hammett Unwritten and Woman with a Blue Pencil comes a startling meta-fiction tale told in the voice of Sherlock Holmes. Set in 1920s' London, Cambridge, and Paris, Holmes's final adventure leads him through labyrinths of crime and espionage in a mortally dangerous inquiry into the unseen nature of existence itself. Sherlock Holmes, now in his seventies, retired from investigations and peaceably disguised as a professor at Cambridge, is shaken when a modestly successful author in his late-sixties named Arthur Conan Doyle calls upon him at the university. This Conan Doyle, notable for historical adventure stories, science fiction, and a three-volume history of the Boer War (but no detective tales), somehow knows of the false professor's true identity and pleads for investigative assistance. Someone is trying to kill Conan Doyle. Who? Why? Good questions, but what intrigues Holmes most is how the "middling scribbler" ascertained Holmes's identity in the first place, despite the detective's perfect disguise. Holmes takes the case. There is danger every step of the way. Great powers want the investigation quashed. But with the assistance of Dr. Watson's widow, Holmes persists, exploring séances, the esoterica of Edgar Allan Poe, the revolutionary new science of quantum mechanics, and his own long-denied sense of loss and solitude. Ultimately, even Sherlock Holmes is unprepared for what the evidence suggests.
Readers curious about an elderly Sherlock Holmes who was never a Victorian gentleman may enjoy this offbeat pastiche from Edgar-finalist McAlpine (Woman with a Blue Pencil). In 1943, Jorge Luis Borges hires an unnamed PI in Buenos Aires to read what purports to be an unpublished memoir in Holmes's own hand entitled Uncertainty. In the manuscript, dated 1928, Holmes claims that Dr. Watson has misled the public about his retirement, saying he has spent five years "disguised as a variety of visiting lecturers at Oxford and Cambridge Universities." Holmes is dumbfounded when Arthur Conan Doyle appears at Cambridge and is able to identify him even though he's disguised as classical physicist Heinrich von Schimmel. The author was told where to find Holmes by the spirit of Stanley Baldwin at a s ance, despite Baldwin's being alive and serving as prime minister. Even weirder twists follow in a novel that explores the idea of parallel universes. That McAlpine's Holmes is far removed from Doyle's original may disappoint some Sherlockians.