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on 1 June 2011

`Sherlock Holmes & The Henzau Affair' is an intriguing novel to both read and review. Written by vintage detective buff, David Stuart Davies (who has produced fascinating and insightful introductions to a range of such books, including the great works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (even revealing more careful attention to detail than the creator of Holmes himself in places!)), here we have a new tale which combines the worlds of Baker Street's finest and Anthony Hope's swash-buckling Zenda novels. The premise is both fascinating and a trifle cheeky, as I shall go on to explain. Does it succeed? Well, as a mystery action-adventure tale in its own right, yes. However, in attempting to blend the atmosphere of two great literary staples, not quite.

Let's deal with the latter verdict first. In recent years, Sherlock Holmes the character has been `fair game' in terms of contemporary authors writing their own accounts (mainly through Watson's eyes) of his previously-unpublished cases. David Stuart Davies has proven to be most prolific in this field. He is clearly a true Sherlock devotee, and thoroughly enjoys spending time with the great consulting detective. However, in penning `Sherlock Holmes & The Henzau Affair', purists could argue that he takes one too many liberties in bending of the tone of the originals. Indeed, his Holmes is more the action hero of the latest Guy Ritchie films, being involved in some pretty rough stuff. Now I know that Conan Doyle provided Holmes with a strong track-record in the fisty-cuffs field, but the way that Davies gives him just as much enjoyment of the thrills-and-spills of the case as he gets from the actually deductive reasoning lacks authenticity.

The same limitations apply to the Zenda elements of the story. Being 70% a Sherlock Homes novel and only 30% an Anthony Hope adventure yarn, the splendid tone and atmosphere of `The Prisoner of Zenda' never quite shines through. Added to that, Davies takes the extraordinary liberty of completing ignoring Hope's own sequel to his most famous novel (the excellent but dark, brooding `Rupert of Henzau') and instead uses familiar characters and scenarios entirely for his own purposes, creating a virtual parallel universe of events. Think `Sliding Doors' (the subway scene) and you're getting warm.

This might all seem like petty griping and nit-picking. It is not intended to be, as in its own right `Sherlock Holmes & The Henzau Affair' is a cracking read. It's limitations stem from its reliance upon established characters who seem a trifle out of place. Now, as I moved through the opening chapters and I found an increasingly athletic Holmes involved in a blood-stained fight atop of the landing of a sinister London house, and a near wise-cracking Watson reminding all and sundry of his often-empty belly, I pondered how much better `Sherlock Holmes & The Henzau Affair' might have worked if Davies had chosen to substitute his heroes for Sexton Blake and Tinker. Indeed, one chapter ends with a red hot poker only millimetres away from a trussed-up Holmes's face, with a villain sneering threats. Those familiar with Sexton Blake know that this is textbook stuff for the OTHER Baker Street detective. Likewise, one absurd plot development involving some serious quantities of nose putty would have been far more palatable with a less-revered detective in the lead role.

Thus, the main message to be sent out regarding `Sherlock Holmes & The Henzau Affair' is not to take it too seriously. Those expecting a profound novel that blends the worlds of Conan Doyle and Hope into a mouth-watering cocktail with be left dissatisfied. However, as a cheeky and slightly-ironic tribute to both, delivered with energy and pace, it works splendidly. Given that that is probably exactly what its author intended, who's complaining?

Barty's Score: 7.5/10
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on 24 April 2009
Having read "Dancing In The Moonlight" by David Stuart Davies, and enjoyed it thoroughly, I felt quite comfortable purchasing several of his Sherlock Holmes pastiches.

This book starts out with all the promise of a really good Holmes & Watson tale; Foreign diplomats, spies, murder, kidnapping and International terrorism!

Sadly as the tale progresses the main plot is pretty transparent from chapter six onwards and this is where I started to note some serious inconsistencies with Holmes character. Blindly blundering into obvious traps (and it not being intentional in order to uncover who is behind them) being my main bone of contention, coupled with a very loose structure that left me feeling that it was more luck than logic that got this case resolved.

The character of Watson is consistent and in character and there is plenty of action, the pace being quite fast. It was also nice to see the internal power struggle that blighted Ruritanian and its escalation.

Having guessed the conclusion pretty early on, I struggled to finish this book.
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on 16 August 2017
True to the style of Conan Doyle, a typical Holmes mystery adventure with Watson playing the usual strong supporting role.
It's like Holmes and Watson never went away..
Holmes threads his way through the this case with Watson in close attendance and, makes a surprising admission regarding his legendary powers of deduction.
David. Stuart Davies is certainly on a winner!-
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on 9 September 2017
a nice easy read; good escapism. Nothing to tax the brain
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on 22 October 2017
Worthy of both Anthony Hope and Conan Doyle. Enjoyed it very much indeed. Great for fans of both, but doesn't make sense with the second Anthony Hope book. Shame.
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on 25 August 2017
Fantastic book, the prisoner of Zenda in book form
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on 20 August 2017
Good fun.
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on 30 April 2008
I am a fan of both the Sherlock Holmes stories and the Zenda stories of Anthony Hope. Therefore I was intrigued by the idea of an original story that brings the two together.

David Stuart Davies does a magnificent job with this short story. It inevitably reads more like a Holmes story but Hope's characters behave and act as they do in his own works.

My only criticism of this book lies in the fact that it takes no account of Hope's own sequel to The Prisoner of Zenda - Rupert of Hentzau. Anthony Hope wrote his own sequel to the events of his famous story and Davies' story takes no account of it and presents itself as the sequel to the original. The decidedly dark and sad ending of Hope's sequel is replaced with the upbeat and happy ending that modern readers tend to insist on. Such an ending was impossible at the time Hope wrote his originals but Davies, freed of such limitations, has been able to end the Zenda adventure on a high note.

I heartily recommend this book but readers should also make sure they read Hope's own sequel and appreciate how he envisaged the ending of the Zenda adventures.
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on 2 November 2011
Having read multiple Sherlock Holmes stories of Davies before and being a fan of the Holmes stories in general, this book greatly disappointed me. As stated before, the plot was rather flimsy, and there was no real baffling detection Holmes-style at all. Watson seems to be the most in-character but is mainly concerned with food, which made me think a lot about Nigel Bruce's version of Watson. Mycroft seems to be added just because the author likes him and has no real purpose. The story is rather poor as a Holmes detective novel and I recommend trying other Holmes-fiction books before your addiction drives you to this.
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on 6 March 2016
Sherlock Holmes and the Hentzau Affair by David Stuart Davies

I wish to thank the good people at Endeavour Press for my Kindle™ review copy of this book. Thanks, Georgina Cutler!

This story is a sort of addendum to The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope.

Walking back to their Baker Street flat, Holmes and Watson are startled when a hansom cab rattles by and halts at their door. The passenger jumps out and begins to rap furiously on the door. He slams up the stairs to 221B, pulls the blinds, and can be seen as his shadow crosses the blind as he paces the floor.

He introduces himself as Colonel Sapt in the service of King Rudolf the Fifth of Ruritania. He relates the history of King Rudolph and the Englishman Rudolf Rassendyll, the King’s double from Anthony Hope’s adventurous tale. Once before, Rudolf Rassendyll; himself a bastard of the Royal Family of Ruritania, had impersonated the King in a time of trouble.

Now problems arise from the same parties involved in the original plot to overthrow the King. Black Michael, villain of the Anthony Hope novel was killed in the end. His conspirator, Count Rupert of Hentzau, hopes to seize the throne from King Rudolf. Rudolf himself, never physically well, has descended into a simple-minded madness.

To carry out his coup, Rupert of Hentzau has kidnapped Rassendyll—using his kidnapped nephew’s life to force him to cooperate. Holmes and Watson are commissioned by Mycroft to see that the throne of Ruritania doesn’t fall to the Count of Hentzau…

I found the story to have nuances of both Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Anthony Hope. Mr. Davies manages to paint the world of both men into a combined universe that is a veritable masterpiece! Encore!

I give the book five stars!

Quoth the Raven…
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