In a stunning discovery, another dispatch box of cases – these in Holmes’ own hand – has been found in the vaults of Cox and Co., Charring Cross, London. The bank, long known as the repository of the cases detailed by Dr. Watson, friend and colleague of the world’s most famous consulting detective, recently uncovered a hitherto unknown cache of more cases occurring prior to Holmes and Watson’s meeting in 1881. These new documents provide insights into the early life of the great detective. Whether for discretion on the part of Watson or reticence on the part of Holmes, the details of his family and circumstances before 1881 are sketchy at best.
Holmes shared with Watson that his ancestors were country squires, his grandmother was the sister of the French portraitist Vernet, and that he had a brother named Mycroft. From these new tales, we learn of how he developed his skills in criminal investigation, and all about his most unusual family. His father, Siger Holmes was, indeed, a squire, and as such, one of the county’s justices of the peace. His mother, nee Violette Parker, had spent a great deal of time in France and had received some medical training. His brother Mycroft, seven years Sherlock’s senior, read for the law at Oxford. The immediate Holmes family lived on their small estate, Underbyrne, along with Violette’s brother Ernest.
In this first case, now transcribed and to be published as The Adventure of the Murdered Midwife, Sherlock faces the most challenging assignment of his young life: save his mother from the gallows.
After only a short time into his first year at Eton, Squire Holmes calls Sherlock and his brother back to Underbyrne because Violette has been accused of murdering the village midwife. The two women had, after all, been in a very public argument only days before, and it is Mrs. Holmes who finds the woman stabbed in the back with a pitchfork. From her gaol cell, Mrs. Holmes commissions her younger son to find the true killer before she hangs.
More cases will follow as Dr. Sherwood-Fabre continues to delve into the long-hidden past of this iconic, but secretive, investigator.
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They told me the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton, and I knew I should have been honored to be at the institution; but at age thirteen, I hated it. The whole bloody place. I remained only because my parents’ disappointment would have been too great a disgrace to bear.
My aversion culminated about a month after my arrival when I was forced into a boxing match on the school’s verdant side lawn. I had just landed a blow to Charles Fitzsimmons’s nose, causing blood to pour from both nostrils, when the boys crowding around us parted. One of the six-form prefects joined us in the circle’s center.
After glancing first at Fitzsimmons, he said to me, “Sherlock Holmes, you’re wanted in the Head Master’s office. Come along.”
Even though I’d been at the school only a few weeks, I knew no one was called to the director’s office unless something was terribly wrong. I hesitated, blinking at the young man in his stiff collar and black suit. He flapped his arms to mark his impatience at my delay and spun about on his heel, marching toward the college’s main building. I gulped, gathered my things, and followed him at a pace that left me puffing to keep up.
I had no idea what caused such a summons. If it had been the fight, surely Charles would have accompanied me. I hadn’t experienced any controversies in any of my classes, even with my mathematics instructor. True, earlier in the day I’d corrected him, but surely it made sense to point out his mistake? For the most part, the masters seemed pleased with my answers when they called on me.
I did have problems, however, with most of my classmates—Charles Fitzsimmons was just one example. Except he was the one who’d called me out. Surely, that couldn’t be the basis of this summons?
Once inside, my sight adjusted slowly to the dark, cool interior, and I could distinguish the stern-faced portraits of past college administrators, masters, and students lining the hallway. As I passed them, I could feel their judgmental stares bearing down on me, and so I focused on the prefect’s back, glancing neither right nor left at these long-dead critics. A cold sweat beaded on my upper lip as I felt certain something very grave had occurred, with me at the center of the catastrophe. Reaching the Head Master’s office, I found myself unable to work the door’s latch, and with an exasperated sigh, the prefect opened it for me and left me to enter on a pair of rather shaky knees.
My agitation deepened when I entered and found the director examining a letter with my father’s seal clearly visible. He glanced up from the paper with the same severe expression I’d observed in his predecessors’ portraits. Dismissing his appraisal, I concentrated on the details I gathered from the missive in his hand.
Taking a position on an expansive oriental carpet in front of his massive wooden desk, I drew in my breath and asked, “What happened to my mother?”
“How did you know this involves your mother?” he asked, pulling back his chin.
“The letter. That’s my father’s seal.” My words gathered speed as I continued. “It doesn’t bear a black border, which means at least at this point no death is involved. My father’s hand is steady enough to write, so he must be well, that leaves only some problem with my mother.”
The man raised his eyebrows at my response, then glanced at the letter in his hand before tossing it onto the desk’s polished surface. “As you have surmised, a problem at home requires your return. Your father has requested that we arrange for you and your things to be sent to the rail station. Your brother will be arriving from Oxford to accompany you the rest of the way.”
My heart squeezed in my chest, dread rushing through my body. Home. Underbyrne, the family estate. And not just for a short visit. Packing all my things meant I was leaving for the remainder of the term. Something terribly wrong had happened. Grievous enough to pull Mycroft out of his third year of studies at Oxford. Blood whooshed in my ears, and I barely heard what followed.
“I’ve already requested Mrs. Whittlespoon to assist you in your packing.” Head Master turned his attention to the rest of the mail on his desk. He glanced up to add, “She’ll be in your room already.”
“Thank you, sir. Good day, sir.” I recovered enough to respond to his statement, but not to ask the reason behind Father’s directive.
With a wave of his hand, I was dismissed before I could inquire. As I closed the door behind me, I heard him mutter, “As much a prig as his brother.”
For a moment, I considered opening the door and requesting more information about his assessment as well as what else my father had provided in his letter, but social convention restrained me from questioning an elder—and the Head Master at that. I was left to ponder my unspoken concerns as I returned to my chamber.
By the time I arrived at my room, my trunk had already been brought down from storage, and Mrs. Whittlespoon, the house dame, was placing my belongings in it.
“There you are, dearie.” She pointed to a set of clothing on my bed. “You go change into your traveling clothes while I finish this up.”
I paused, considering for a moment to ask her what she knew of the events surrounding my departure, but she had turned her attention to the drawer with my undergarments. Having lost the opportunity for the moment, I retrieved the clothes and carried them to the bathing facilities.
Since the Head Master was not forthcoming, and Mrs. Whittlespoon might have only limited knowledge, my best hope for additional information as to what had occurred with Mother would be Mycroft—if he was in the mood to share. Knowing my brother, he might not be inclined to discuss this or any other matter on the journey home. He’d been overjoyed to return to university after the summer’s break and pulling him out would definitely sour his mood.
Mrs. Whittlespoon turned to me when I re-entered the room and placed both her hands on my shoulders for a moment to scrutinize my appearance.
“You look a right proper young gentleman.” She smoothed out the sleeves of my coat. “You go on down to the carriage, now. I’ll finish up here and have Jarvis take the trunk down to the carriage. I assume you’ll want to carry that yourself.”
She waved her hand at my violin case lying on the bed. A wave of guilt swept over me. At my mother’s insistence, I’d begun lessons two years before and developed some skill on the instrument. Since entering Eton I hadn’t found the time to practice as promised. How could I report such a failure to her? I swallowed as my next thought rose, unbidden. Assuming, of course, she was in a position to ask—or understand—my answer.
What reviewers are saying:
“Fans of unconventional takes on the canon, such as Leonard Goldberg’s Daughter of Sherlock Holmes series, will look forward to more.”
- Publishers Weekly
“[Dr.] Sherwood-Fabre’s attention to detail and vivid prose are on full display in this delightful look at the evolution of a young Sherlock Holmes.”
- Book Life Prize
“Having read various accounts of the young Holmes for younger and older readers, this is the best of them all in the richness of the characters, not only giving Sherlock greater depth, but also bringing to life the others around him.”
- Sally Sugarman, editor “Groans, Cries, and Bleatings,” the Baker Street Breakfast Club newsletter
“Fans of Sherlock Holmes will love this new take and appreciate Liese Sherwood-Fabre’s attention to detail. A classic in the making!”
- Gemma Halliday, USA Today, NYT Bestselling Author
About the Author:
Award-winning author Dr. Liese Sherwood-Fabre doesn’t remember a time she didn’t know of Sherlock Holmes—be it the old Basel Rathbone movies, Tom and Jerry in a deerstalker hat, or the original Conan Doyle tales. Her fascination with Holmes and how he became the world’s most famous consulting detective led her to become the mystery author and Sherlockian scholar she is today.
During her thirty-plus years as a federal employee, Dr. Sherwood-Fabre worked and lived in various countries, including Mexico and Russia, finding inspiration for stories based on events taking place around her. She garnered a prestigious Pushcart nomination for a short story inspired by her experiences in Mexico. Having lived through the tumultuous years of change in Russia, her first published novel, Saving Hope, centers around an unemployed Russian microbiologist who must choose between saving her daughter’s life or working with a former KGB agent to stop the sale of bioweapons to Iran. After returning to the states, Dr. Sherwood-Fabre revived her early interest in Sherlock Holmes and the Victorian period. For the past six years, she has shared her knowledge with other Sherlockians by contributing regularly to several society newsletters, as well as the prestigious Baker Street Journal and Canadian Holmes publications, and presenting at Sherlockian conferences as well as at Bouchercon 2019.