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Sherlock Homes is one of the world’s most recognisable literary figures. So famous in fact that he completely outshone his creator Sir Arther Conan-Doyle, much to the latter’s dismay.
Conan Doyle was much more interested in spiritualism than in writing more adventures for his detective hero, so in 1893 he killed him off, sending him tumbling over the Reichenbach Falls to his death. locked in combat with his mortal enemy Professor Moriarty.
The short story in which Holmes perishes was called “The Final Problem”, though it may better be thought of as the final solution to the ‘problem’ of Holmes’ excessive popularity. Unfortunately for Conan-Doyle, though fortunately for us, there was such a public outcry against the brutal demise of the popular hero that Conan-Doyle was compelled to bring him back in 1894 in the series, “The Return of Sherlock Holmes”.
Holmes’ death in The Final Problem is set in 1891 and his re-appearance in The Adventure of The Empty House in 1894, leaving a period of three years in which Holmes has disappeared. This period, never explained by Conan-Doyle, is known to Sherlockians as “The Great Hiatus”.
Over the years there have been a number of attempts by other authors to fill the missing period in Holmes’ life, but the best by far is the explanation given by Australian author Timothy Francis Sheil in The Sherlock Holmes Report, the first volume of which, under the title, The Siam Question, appeared in hard back in 1999*.
Sheil’s explanation of Sherlock Holmes’ absence centres upon Sherlock’s brother, Mycroft, head of Queen Victoria’s secret service. (Mycroft appeared several times in the first series of “Sherlock” starring Benedict Cumberbatch, BBC TV). According to Sheil, Mycroft despatched Sherlock on a secret mission for the Queen, which kept him out of the country, first in Egypt and then in Siam (now known as Thailand) for the three years he was away.
Sheil’s work attracted very favourable reviews when it was published, being described by Roger Johnson in The District Messenger (the journal of the Sherlock Holmes Society) as,
“a very handsome novel of over 600 pages…The Siam Question is an engrossing tale of high adventure nicely presented and well written… which Mr Sheil carries of admirably.”
Sadly owing to the illness of the author, volume II of The Sherlock Holmes Report, entitled The Egypt Question, has yet to see the light of day. We can but hope that the current renewed interest in the famous detective will prompt Sheil to pick up his pen once more.
*The Siam Question is availabe from Amazon http://www.amazon.co.uk/Siam-Question-Sherlock-Holmes-Report/dp/0953816001/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1325327074&sr=8-2 ISBN 0-9538160-0-1