Book Review: The Return of the Pharaoh: From the Reminiscences of John H. Watson, M.D. (Nicholas Meyer Holmes Pastiches #5) by Nicholas Meyer

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Genre: Historical Fiction Mystery
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: November 9th, 2021
Pages: 272, hardcover
Source: NetGalley

In 1910, Dr. John Watson travels to Egypt with his wife Juliet. Her tuberculosis has returned and her doctor recommends a stay at a sanitarium in a dry climate. But while his wife undergoes treatment, Dr. Watson bumps into an old friend–Sherlock Holmes, in disguise and on a case. An English Duke with a penchant for egyptology has disappeared, leading to enquiries from his wife and the Home Office. 

Holmes has discovered that the missing duke has indeed vanished from his lavish rooms in Cairo and that he was on the trail of a previous undiscovered and unopened tomb. And that he’s only the latest Egyptologist to die or disappear under odd circumstances. With the help of Howard Carter, Holmes and Watson are on the trail of something much bigger, more important, and more sinister than an errant lord.

Watson’s wife has consumption, and they travel to a specialized clinic in Egypt to effect her recovery. Holmes is also in Cairo, hunting a missing nobleman who disappeared from an apparently non-existent hotel room. The Return of the Pharaoh by Nicholas Meyer takes Holmes and Watson on a hunt for a missing nobleman, and a long-dead Egyptian king. 

Nicholas Meyer captures Watson’s voice well, although I might quibble that his Watson is a bit more progressive than Conan Doyle’s. The story is interesting, and a few historical characters, such as Howard Carter, are scattered through, which will delight Egyptophiles. Naturally, there’s a mummy, as well as a tomb, and the duo must navigate not only the unfamiliar terrain, but the political landscape as well. England is still in full colonial mode, and still stinging from the defeat at the hands of the Mahdi some decades before.

If Watson is more progressive, Holmes is more fallible. The missing hotel room should not have taken him long to solve, even with the distraction of a dead waiter, and the arrival of his demanding client. There’s also a revelation toward the end of the book that could change their relationship. 

Would Conan Doyle have sent Holmes to Egypt to search for a missing lord? Maybe, maybe not, but the story is well-written and I felt Meyer did a good job capturing the characters and crafting an intriguing mystery.

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