Holmes Coming by Kenneth Johnson introduces a modern audience to the beloved world of Sherlock Holmes as our favorite detective is introduced to the modern day.
Kenneth Johnson began with the idea of Sherlock Holmes—yes the Sherlock Holmes—locking himself in a sarcophagus and waiting to be set free—so he could use his skills to solve crimes of the future. “Reading a Conan Doyle story one night, I flashed on how it would be great fun if I could logically to make his iconic character suddenly reappear in 21st-century San Francisco,” Johnson said. “I’ve always enjoyed—and had surprising success creating—characters that are slightly larger than life. Finding believable ways to make them live and breathe in the real world can be challenging, but rewarding.”
Holmes Coming is certainly one of his successes.
Creating this work was no easy process. “How does one write for a genius character when one is decidedly not a genius?! I was stymied,” Johnson said. Getting into the mind of the classically over the top and cocaine-fueled mind of Sherlock Holmes proved to be difficult until Johnson learned that Conan Doyle faced similar, if not the same, issues. “Sir Arthur said his head would often be exploding from the stress—and mine was too!” Johnson said. “Many times I’d be tightly knotted up while trying fashion the story. But when I came up with the answers I felt pure elation—like a magician pulling bouquets out of thin air!” Once everything clicked the words began to flow and thus, Holmes Coming was written.
The Man of Legends
Holmes Coming was not Johnson’s first venture into placing out-of-century characters into the current day. One of his previous novels, The Man of Legends takes place in 2001 following three characters as they work to solve a centuries old mystery. Young journalist Jillian Guthrie discovers that the same man, Will, has impossibly been photographed with the likes of Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, and Gandhi—spanning over eighty years looking exactly the same. She is determined to track him down and figure out how this could be possible. In another part of town, Will—still alive and still thirty-something years old—is on the run from Hanna, a former UN envoy. Their lives become entangled as they’re forced to work alongside each other to get to the bottom of an ancient curse that poses a threat to thousands of people.
In The Man of Legends, Johnson weaves and intersects three different storylines into one, effectively taking the reader on a ride of mystery and discovery as the narrative unravels. But in Holmes Coming Johnson takes a different approach, introducing the characters almost immediately before setting them off on an adventure together.
Dr. Amy Winslow was doing what she thought was a basic run-of-the-mill house call for her former patient, the elderly Mrs. Hudson. In Mrs. Hudson’s creepy cellar, Amy discovers a victorian-era steampunk-inspired-looking sarcophagus. When she opens it, what she believes to be a mummy stabs himself with some sort of injection and promptly falls at her feet, leaving her scrambling to revive him. This mummy is no other than Sherlock Holmes himself, somehow alive and well in the twenty-first century. He tells Amy the story of why he decided to hibernate for over one hundred years—and assures her that he is in fact the well-known detective about whom Conan Doyle wrote all of those famous stories. He even shares that he gave Doyle permission to write his stories, but was offended by Doyle’s decision to change his name. Newly revived and ready to go, Holmes is eager to set out to solve new mysteries, with Amy in tow.
Amy finds herself in the position to become the new Dr. Watson as she helps Holmes acclimate to the modern era, while also shutting down his often dangerous “solutions” to the cases they investigate. The biggest difference Holmes faces is modern technology and safety measures which often prove what he believes to be simple answers to the mysteries to be disastrously wrong. “Despite the daunting challenges, I pressed on and made his new Dr. Watson a female, which opened up myriad opportunities for dramatic—and comedic—conflict, as well as commenting on our present-day through the keen eyes of a Victorian gentleman,” Johnson said. “It also provided some sparks of unexpected romantic intimacy. I had great fun writing it all.”
To make sure you’re in on the fun that is this book, snag a copy—or grab the audiobook, which features a complete cast of characters interacting live as they record. It’s certainly an experience you won’t want to miss.