THE STONE OF DESTINY
by Richard T Ryan
During the elaborate funeral for Queen Victoria, a group of Irish separatists breaks into Westminster Abbey and steals the Coronation Stone, on which every monarch of England has been crowned since the 14th century. After learning of the theft from Mycroft, Sherlock Holmes is tasked with recovering the stone and returning it to England. In pursuit of the many-named stone, which has a rich and colorful history, Holmes and Watson travel to Ireland in disguise as they try to infiltrate the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the group they believe responsible for the theft. The story features a number of historical characters, including a very young Michael Collins, who would go on to play a prominent role in Irish history; John Theodore Tussaud, the grandson of Madame Tussaud; and George Bradley, the dean of Westminster at the time of the theft. There are also references to a number of other Victorian luminaries, including Joseph Lister and Frederick Treves. For fans of Conan Doyle’s immortal detective, the game is always afoot. However, for the great detective the stakes have never been higher as he must mollify a king who refuses to ascend the throne until “order has been restored.”
The Stone of Destiny sequel to The Vatican Cameos
Found within an auctioned-off box - the name John H Watson stencilled on the lid - were a set of old Sherlock Holmes stories that, for different reasons, never saw the light. Ryan’s last book The Vatican Cameos (review here) came from the same source. This time it is an untitled manuscript that’s selected. The other stories will presumably appear in future books. It’s a nice idea, especially that each story has a reason for having not being published back in the day. In this case, the story had political ramifications.
We open with Mycroft having called for Holmes and Watson to attend the Diogenes Club. It’s 1901 and there are concerns about Queen Victoria’s funeral. Separatist groups have been demanding independence and, one such group, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, is about to strike.
The Coronation Stone is stolen from Westminster Cathedral and now Holmes must recover it, for it is needed for the new king to be crowned. With the British Monarchy and Empire in potential turmoil there’s a race against time to find and return the stone. An old caretaker first noticed it missing when he discovered a cheap replica in its stead, information he shares only with Mycroft. This stone sits under the throne and itself has an interesting history (one that continues beyond the time of this story). The replica has been created in the style of a Madame Tussauds’ prop, leading Holmes and Watson on a trail that takes them to Ireland and the home of the dissident group.
The duo travel in disguise and try to blend in separately, Holmes as a chimney sweep, Watson searching for his mother’s family. But will their disguise and backstory keep the suspicious locals at bay?
The Irish Republican Brotherhood, the precursor to the Irish Republican Army, are holding the government to ransom and they prove clever adversaries, seemingly one step ahead of the great Holmes. And even if charges are to be brought, the group would get the acknowledgement they need, leaving Holmes in a delicate and dangerous position.
The story features a number of historical characters such as a young Michael Collins, and there are references to figures such as Joseph Lister. It might best described as a historical mystery but if you know the Conan Doyle novels you’ll know what to expect here. In fact, this is more like the original short novels than Ryan’s previous lengthier book.
Full of interesting facts the story satisfies and may even have as you believing that Holmes and Watson actually existed.
About Richard T Ryan:
A lifelong Sherlockian, Richard Ryan's The Vatican Cameos: A Sherlock Holmes Adventure was published in 2016 by MX Publishing. The Stone of Destiny followed in 2017.
He is also the author of The Official Sherlock Holmes Trivia Book as well as a book on Agatha Christie trivia. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, where he majored in medieval literature, he is a die-hard fan of the Fighting Irish.
Richard has been happily married for 39 years and is the proud father of two children.