With Holmes in Tibet

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Having recently listened to the complete Sherlock Holmes stories on audiotape (they improved the school run no end), I was bound to be curious when The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes first appeared. It takes as its point of departure Holmes’s explanation for his absence after the struggle with his arch-enemy Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls:

I travelled for two years in Tibet, therefore, and amused myself by visiting Lhassa, and spending some days with the head Lama. You may have read of the remarkable exploration of a Norwegian named Sigerson, but I am sure that it never occurred to you that you were receiving news of your friend.

The account of Sherlock Holmes’s years in Tibet which follows would, were it available as an audiotape, entrance a whole carload of fractious schoolchildren. It is a gripping adventure, with all the hallmarks that have made Conan Doyle’s own stories so enduringly popular – impenetrable disguises, cunning counter-plots, vicious villains, confusion over identities and baffling deaths. Indeed one death in particular is spectacularly baffling, though you will have to read the book yourself to find out what happens.

In the absence of Dr Watson, Sherlock Holmes travels in the company of Huree Chunder Mookerjee, Fellow of the Royal Society, London, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, London, and recipient of the Founder’s Medal, Corresponding Member of the Imperial Archaeological Society of St Petersburg, Associate Member of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal, Calcutta, and Life Member of Brahmo Somaj, Calcutta.

Mookerjee tells the story so there is no objective description of him but he seems to be a rather overweight and earnest Bengali. In his youth he was a pundit, one of the unsung heroes of the Great Game who mapped out the borders of the Raj and beyond by travelling in disguise, carrying theodolites concealed in Buddhist prayer-wheels and Buddhist rosaries with 100 beads to

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About the contributor

Frances Wood read Chinese at Cambridge and spent a year at Peking University in a class of worker-peasant-soldier students under the great and wise leadership of Chairman Ma o. She has since written on the vexed question of whether Marco Polo ever went to China, on the Treaty Ports and on the Silk Road.

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