Sherlock Holmes Solo Mysteries: The Crown vs. Dr. Watson

Sherlock Holmes Solo Mysteries: The Crown vs. Dr. Watson

As regular readers know, I enjoy choose-your-own-path books, particularly when they’re Sherlock Holmes-related (and even more so when they’re comics).

Thus, I was curious to know more about the line of Sherlock Holmes Solo Mysteries, seven paperbacks published in 1987 and 1988. The first one is Murder at the Diogenes Club, which made me even more interested, as the Diogenes Club is where Mycroft Holmes hangs out, and he’s my favorite.

Murder at the Diogenes Club cover

Sadly, that book was incredibly disappointing. You are a cousin of Dr. Watson’s, which isn’t unusual for these kinds of stories. (You disappoint fewer people if you don’t try to write for Sherlock Holmes or John Watson.) That wasn’t the disappointing part. The disappointing part was that you start at a horse track, investigating the possibility someone is fixing a race to affect betting.

The book is heavily influenced by role-playing games. (I was never an RPG player, but it’s a type of fandom adjacent to comics.) You start by creating a character profile with various stats, and instead of making choices to progress through the mystery, much of the time, you have to generate a random number (roll two dice, or use the random number table in the back) and that sends you to another paragraph. (See the sample page below for what I mean.)

Sherlock Holmes Solo Mysteries: The Crown vs. Dr. Watson sample page

Anyway, I spent ten minutes or so tracking through the various choices, and I still hadn’t met Mycroft, so I started flipping through the book to find him. There are very few paragraphs with him, and in most of them, you’re too intimidated to ask him questions (which is a fair, in-character reaction, I suppose).

Sherlock Holmes Solo Mysteries : The Crown vs. Dr. Watson cover

Many of the titles in this series I’ve seen are at best loosely related to Holmes stories. (There is one, Death at Appledore Towers, where you deal with the death of Charles Augustus Milverton.) My favorite of the ones I’ve read so far uses established Holmes history as a jumping-off point for an intriguing premise.

The Crown vs. Dr. Watson is set during the period of Sherlock Holmes’ “death”. Mycroft Holmes asks you, a grown-up former Baker Street Irregular, to find out who really killed a businessman. Dr. Watson is the primary suspect, but his friends don’t believe he could be a murderer.

You interact a lot more with Mycroft in this one, as well as a Scotland Yard inspector, and even Mrs. Hudson, which is why I found it more enjoyable. It takes better advantage of the characters and setting, I thought.

Several of these books are available relatively cheaply from used book dealers, if you want to play along yourself. If you do, I’d love to know what you think.

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