Nicholas Meyer’s The Return of the Pharaoh is an adventure set in the later years of the illustrious detective and his faithful friend that takes them to Egypt in 1911 to track down the missing Duke of Uxbridge, who was on a treasure hunt of a never-opened pharaonic tomb. Nicholas Meyer, of course, is a celebrated author and director who has penned his own unique Sherlock Holmes mysteries and has helped Captain Kirk navigate through equally turbulent voyages.
In The Return of the Pharaoh, Meyer’s writing is top notch. His style is completely immersive not only of the period but also of the location. And man, is it terribly boring.
While Dr. Watson finds himself in Egypt with his wife, he learns that Sherlock Holmes is also there on a case helping a Duchess tracking down her missing husband. Instead of finding the duke, the pair find a trail of corpses leading them to the sealed tomb of pharaoh Tuthmose V.
The plot could have been loaded with enough snares and traps to make Indiana Jones jealous of Holmes’ remarkable intelligence as each is thwarted. The long Star of Egypt train ride the heroes embark upon could have thick with an Agatha Christie mystery. Alas, other than a rather exciting sandstorm they become trapped in, neither of those instances occur. Holmes sips tea and postulates. Watson complains and stays loyal. The story is overall entertaining but well short of magnificence.
Perhaps modern-day fans are too comfortable with Robert Downey, Jr’s pugilist Holmes, or Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock with the hip scarves and Siri-like recall. And both, by the way, are fantastic adaptations. The Return of the Pharaoh is akin to seeing movie action heroes well past their prime trying to perform in one last escapade. Like Eastwood, Sutherland, and Garner in Space Cowboys. The memory of their tales are broad and snappy and, when needed, menacing. Unfortunately, time dulls any such danger. And a Sherlock Holmes mystery should be anything but dull.
Many thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for an advanced copy of this new mystery. I remain a steadfast fan of Nic Meyer.