Sherlock Holmes and the Telegram from Hell

Sherlock Holmes and the Telegram from Hell

by Nicholas Meyer
Sherlock Holmes and the Telegram from Hell

Sherlock Holmes and the Telegram from Hell

by Nicholas Meyer


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Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson cross the Atlantic at the height of World War I in pursuit of a mysterious coded telegram in this new mystery from the author of The Return of the Pharaoh.

June, 1916. With a world war raging on the continent, exhausted John H. Watson, M.D. is operating on the wounded full-time when his labors are interrupted by a knock on his door, revealing Sherlock Holmes, with a black eye, a missing tooth and a cracked rib. The story he has to tell will set in motion a series of world-changing events in the most consequential case of the detective’s career.

Amid rebellion in Ireland and revolution in Russia, Germany has a secret plan to win the war and Sir William Melville of the British Secret Service dispatches the two aging friends to learn what the scheme is before it can be put into effect. In pursuit of a mysterious coded telegram sent from Berlin to an unknown recipient in Mexico, Holmes and Watson must cross the Atlantic, dodge German U-boats and assassination attempts, and evade the intrigues of young J. Edgar Hoover, while enlisting the help of a beautiful, eccentric Washington socialite as they seek to foil the schemes of Holmes’s nemesis, the escaped German spymaster Von Bork.

Sherlock Holmes and the Telegram from Hell plunges Holmes into a world that eerily resembles our own, where entangling alliances, treaties, and human frailty threaten to create another cataclysm.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781613165331
Publisher: Penzler Publishers
Publication date: 08/27/2024
Sales rank: 378,450
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.00(d)

About the Author

About The Author
Nicholas Meyer is the “editor” of several Watson manuscripts, including The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, which spent forty weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. His screenplay of the film received an Oscar nomination. His film credits include writing and directing Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. He wrote and directed Time After Time, co-created Medici: Masters of Florence, and directed The Day After, about nuclear war that attracted the largest audience ever for a television movie. A native of New York City, he lives in Santa Monica, California.

Read an Excerpt

Wondering who on Earth might be calling so late, I slipped on my jacket and unbolted the door, astonished to behold a figure emerging like a wraith from a thick, sulfurous fog.


“May I come in?” His voice was ragged, not the familiar, crisp tones to which I was long accustomed.


I had not seen my singular friend in over a year. Always favoring a touch of the dramatic, the detective could not have devised a better entrance. I stood aside to let him pass, wondering not only at his unexpected presence, but also his appearance, for despite the indifferent lighting I could see that he sported a black eye and a chipped bicuspid.

“And a cracked rib, I fear,” he confided, noting my confusion.

“Come into the surgery. Let me see.”

“First let me sit.” Knowing better than to insist, I gestured to a chair by the hearth, though at this time of year there was no need of a fire. Holmes lowered himself carefully into the chair and sat still for several moments, his eyes closed.

“You are not at the front?” He spoke at last without opening them. “How fortunate—for me. Didn’t you say you intended going?”

He had raised a sore subject. “After Juliet’s death, I volunteered at once. The training and skill of a battlefield surgeon I knew would be of inestimable value, but I was rejected on account of my age and my leg. It is hard for me to stand for long periods. Thus I was posted to the Royal Marsden, treating secondary wounds, though these are bad enough, including sepsis and gangrene, many ultimately involving amputations.” It still rankled that I had not been accepted for active service. London was crawling with older men – and women – in one form of uniform or another and I felt it a blemish, even if no one else was of that opinion, but the detective’s appearance drove these considerations from my mind.

“Holmes, what has happened to you? Who has done this? Could you see the blackguards? And why are you not in Sussex, attending to your bees?”

“I did it to myself, Watson. Or rather, it was done at my direction. I’m too old for this,” he added in a murmur, echoing, as it happened, my own ruminations. But whatever “this” was, his battered appearance confirmed his statement. I was relieved to see his imperious, beaky nose had not been broken, though in addition to the other changes in his physiognomy, I now noticed a hideous grey goatee I had seen once before. The memory of that disguise did not bode well.

“Holmes, let me have a look at you,” I repeated. “It shouldn’t take long.”

“There’s no need,” he replied, closing his eyes. “The shiner will heal, as will the rib, and I daresay the tooth can be replaced somehow or other.”

“At least let me draw you a bath and let you have a hot soak.” It was obvious he hadn’t had a wash in days.


I took a chair opposite and repeated my question.

“What hasn’t happened?” he answered. “I must admit my rosy prognostications of two years ago were at best—” here he hesitated before concluding ruefully, “premature. You might well be entitled to whisper, ‘Norbury,’ Watson.”

With slower movements than usual, (I now perceived the knuckles of his right hand were bruised and swollen as well), he took out his silver case and with some
difficulty extracted a cigarette and tapped it clumsily on the cover before lighting it, at which point his grateful inhalation was usurped by a cough.

“Holmes, you must let me bind your ribs.”

“In due course,” he replied, shutting his eyes briefly once more. “Might I trouble you for a glass of water?”

I had learned from a lifetime in his company there was no point arguing with him. Rather than presenting himself at a hospital, he had come here with some definite end in view, which he would communicate in his own good time.

“Of course. And something to eat? Let me fix you a sandwich. You look starved.”

“Thank you, just water for the moment.”

“Wait here.” Allowing him to sit there, his eyes still shut, I stared at that scraggily goatee and rose to fetch his drink. As I ran the tap, it was easy to remember, to drift back two years, (only two, and yet a lifetime) and recall those optimistic prognostications, following our capture of the German spymaster, Von Bork, near the cliffs of Dover in that scorching August of 1914. Holmes had said to me then:

“There's an east wind coming, such a wind as never blew on England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a good many of us may wither before its blast. But it's God's own wind none the less, and a cleaner, better, stronger land will lie in the sunshine when the storm has cleared.”

“Premature,” the detective repeated, reading my mind as though he were inside it, but not inaccurate.” Opening his eyes, he took the glass I handed him. “Though I maintain my prophecy. The sun will shine again on England.”

“You will forgive me saying so but it is hard to imagine the sun shining upon England when her best blood is presently irrigating Flanders fields.” I could not forbear thinking about Maria’s poor nephew.

“I’ve been wrong before,” the detective allowed. He sipped the water, wincing as he swallowed. “Still each of us must do what we can to see that civilization survives.”

“And what have you been doing to save civilization?” I rather dreaded to learn. With his snaggle tooth, his smile more nearly resembled a snarl. Though I knew him to be sixty-six and he was clearly the worse for wear, yet those grey eyes - the left admittedly bloodshot - shone brightly as ever. “Holmes, come into the surgery. I insist.”

“Very well.” He allowed me to lead him there where I clicked on the lights and gingerly helped him out of a tattered mackintosh and dirty singlet. In the light, his slender torso was black and blue, his rib cage clearly visible, so emaciated was he now.

Seeing my look, he smiled grimly. “Where I’ve been they don’t give you much to eat and what they serve up is scarcely digestible.”

“And you’ve been kicked.”

“Set upon with hobnailed boots, aye.”

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