The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – The Venerable Tiger is the latest Sherlock adventure from publisher Titan Books. The book is written by Sam Siciliano. Siciliano has written Sherlock books in the past including The Moonstone’s Curse and The Devil and the Four.
In the mystery novel, Sherlock Holmes acquires a new client, Isabel Stone. The young and beautiful woman faints on the steps of his Baker Street rooms right into the arms of Dr. Henry Vernier, Holmes’ cousin. Isabel begs Holmes to help her in reclaiming the priceless jewels that are being kept from her by her tyrannical stepfather, Captain Grimbold Pratt. But shortly after agreeing to take her case, Captain Pratt comes to Baker Street, furious that Isabel is trying to deprive him of his fortune. Unsure who to believe, Holmes and Dr. Henry Vernier travel to the Pratt’s estate and unravel a family mystery featuring tigers and wolves that dates back to the Indian Mutiny.
To start, I have not read a Sherlock Holmes story for nearly a decade but I do enjoy a good mystery and certainly a grand plot twist. That being said, The Venerable Tiger is not what I had hoped for. Instead of being caught up in the suspense of the book, I couldn’t get past the orientalism and Third-wave feminism that strangely founds its way into the book.
The main issue with the book is Dr. Vernier. The book is told through his perspective and the way he describes the women around him is disturbing and unpleasant. From comparing his wife’s larger size to that of a skinnier Isabel, to consistently calling other women around him “plump,” Dr. Vernier is just plain gross. What is worse is the book doesn’t frame his character this way. He is instead seen as, for the most part, a good man with good intentions. But the casual sexism doesn’t end there. Dr. Vernier’s wife, Michelle, who is also a physician (something that would have been rare or unheard of for the time) speaks so ill of Isabel that it is uncomfortable.
In addition to Dr. Vernier comparing Michelle’s size to Isabel’s, she does it to her self. At one point, Michelle outright says she hates Isabel for having the luxury to be a fainter and a damsel in distress. The trope of the working woman hating on a woman of privilege just for having that privilege isn’t inherently a bad thing. What is problematic is how poorly every woman in the book is written. None of the women are given their own agency or character development. By the end of the novel, I was exhausted with having to read the words “plump” and “bosom” over and over again to describe various women.
The Venerable Tiger attempts to “be woke” while also existing in Victorian London. At the end of the day, it doesn’t work and it only makes the sexist and racist undertones stick out more. There are almost no people of color in this book and everyone who wears traditional Indian dress and speaks about India is white. While this would have made sense in England at the time, it feels so uncomfortable for a modern audience, especially since the book attempts to make so many progressive statements — most notably with the failed characterization of Michelle.
Outside of the casual racism and sexism, the book is boring. The pacing is far too slow and the mystery is not intriguing. The stakes never feel all that high and since the focus is on Dr. Vernier instead of Sherlock, it is hard to care. Fans of classic Sherlock Holmes stories might still enjoy The Venerable Tiger. However, modern audiences will struggle with the tonal issues within the book. Maybe just play Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate’s Penny Dreadful missions instead.
The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – The Venerable Tiger is available now in book stores everywhere.
The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - The Venerable Tiger
Outside of the casual racism and sexism, the book is boring. The pacing is far too slow and the mystery is not intriguing. The stakes never feel all that high and since the focus is on Dr. Vernier instead of Sherlock, it is hard to care. Fans of classic Sherlock Holmes stories might still enjoy The Venerable Tiger. However, modern audiences will struggle with the tonal issues within the book.