Its title notwithstanding this is not really a sequel to The Hound of the Baskervilles ,and those requiring such an item are directed to the Rick Boyer novel The Giant Rat of Sumatra .
It is -like other novels from Hardwick in his revivals of the figure -a well crafted and enjoyable novel in its own right with solid research and well rounded plots that stand comparison with the Doyle novels ,other ironically than The Hound of the Bskervilles itself ,by far the best full length Sherlock Holmes novel written by Doyle
The period is early 1901 and England is awaiting the once postponed coronation of Queen Victoria;s son the future Edward VII.(The future monarch makes a cameo appearance in the book )
Holmes investigates a series of what appear to be unrelated crimes but which turn out to be linked to a conspiracy to unseat the monarchy by a campaign of terrorist violence mounted by anarchist groups .There is the death of a Chinese steward on a cross -Channel ferry ; the theft of Oliver Cromwell's remains from beneath Marble Arch ,and a blackmail threat to the soon to be King which centres around one of his many romantic and sexual assignatiuons with society ladies .In the bacjground are rumours of the re-appearance of the fabled Hound which is reputedly on the loose on Hampstead Heath where it has attacked a vagrant .
The historical background while sketched quickly is spot on .It shows an England in transition from the certainties of the Victorian era to an altogether less assured future under a new and flambouyant monarch .Foreign anarchists are rife in the city and the country is beginning to entertain doubts about its place in the world having performed badly in the Boer War in Africa and social unrest is in the air .There is a telling statistic -drawn from historical record -of how many potential army recruits were rejected on medical grounds ,the result of malnourishment rooted in grinding poverty.
Add to this Holmes persistent threats of retirement and Watson's remarriage to a young and vibrant American ,and the sense of an era coming to a close is palpable
It is however more than anything a rattling good period crime yarn with a splendidly melodramatic climax in the vaults at Highgate Cemetery
Hardwick wroye novelizations of the Upstairs , Downstairs TV series and was expert in the era as well as a commendable crime novelist .It all combines to make this a solid entry in the best post Doyle Holmes series apart from the Laurie R King series