Sherlock Holmes and the Ghost in the London Athenaeum, by Jack Zonneveld

Holmes and the ghost cvr

Jack Zonneveld, president of the Sherlock Holmes Society of The Hague, has written a short story for children, bulked out in an attractive hardback by random Sidney Paget illustrations and photographs taken inside the Athenaeum club.  It is published by De Nieuwe Haagsche and undated.

In April 1883, Holmes and Watson are visited at Baker Street by Lord Reay who has been babysitting the Dutch king, William III (1817-90), on a private visit.  They are staying at the exclusive Athenaeum, but to Reay’s consternation while he was having a chat with someone the king had disappeared, though not before scribbling a note which he had left with the porter saying he had seen what seemed to be a ghost!  He had to investigate, but he would be back.

Holmes having undertaken to help, the trio return to the Athenaeum, Holmes and Watson on the way reminding each other what a dubious character William has, with a reputation for drinking, philandering and violence: most un-English in fact.  They enter the club only to find the errant monarch has returned, though he is shaken by his experience.

Downing a few stiff ones, he claims to have seen what he first took to be the ghost of an earlier monarch, William the Silent, who was murdered in 1584,  He had been sitting looking out of the window in the Athenaeum when William the Silent tapped him on the shoulder and, living up to his name, walked off.   After the king’s initial shock he had realised it was a living person, not a ghost.

The more recent King William followed and was led into Hatchards, the bookshop, where the apparent ghost seemed to have vanished.  To compound the mystery, the baffled sovereign was handed a piece of paper with a cryptic quotation from La Fontaine, while having to pretend to the staff that he merely had the delusion of being the Dutch king.

Naturally Holmes wraps up the mystery quickly, though how ‘William the Silent’ came to be in the Athenaeum at the same time as the king and why the La Fontaine note was given to the latter is rather far-fetched.  Finally, Lord Reay and Holmes dine together at the Athenaeum where, Holmes tells Watson afterwards, they had bumped into a famous author who said that some ghost stories they had heard connected with The Hague were, in his opinion, true.  His name?  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, of course.

The story is amusing for adults, with characters telling each other things they already know – such as The Hague and Delft are in Holland – or assuming the king might have to abdicate in favour of someone else solely on the grounds that the other person looks exactly like a predecessor of the king’s and might therefore be a descendant with a greater claim to the throne than the incumbent.  However, for all its gaucheness, you can’t get new readers of Sherlock Holmes too young.  Those who enjoy this may advance to the originals in due course.

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