Review

Night Watch: A Long-lost Adventure in Which Sherlock Holmes Meets Father Brown

by Stephen Kendrick



My first exposure to Sherlock Holmes was the painstaking reading of
the story "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" by Sister Theresa
Mary in fifth grade. She followed that up with a Father Brown short
story. The following summer I pulled THE COMPLETE SHERLOCK HOLMES
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and THE FATHER BROWN OMNIBUS by G. K.
Chesterton out of the local library and never looked back. I didn't
know at the time that Chesterton was in fact a brilliant essayist
and philosopher, or that Conan Doyle hated his most famous
creation. I didn't care, either. I was lost in different worlds,
worlds that, I confess, I have never found my way out of.

NIGHT WATCH by Stephen Kendrick is a chronicle of the meeting of
these two literary icons, at a time when Holmes was close to
retirement and Brown was but a prelate, not having taken his final
vows. Kendrick's focus here, wisely, is on Holmes, although Brown's
appearances, woven unobtrusively throughout the novel, are
extremely well done. The two legends meet when Holmes and the
ever-present Watson are called to a London church on Christmas Day
in 1902. Unknown to the public, an interfaith meeting of the
leaders of the world's great faiths is being held with the thought
of conducting a Parliament of the World Religions. The reason for
the requested presence of Holmes and Watson is the discovery of the
mutilated body of a priest in the church. The untrampled snow
around the church suggests that the murderer is still within the
church, and that, worse, he is one of the participants in the
meeting. Throughout the night, Holmes and Watson painstakingly
interrogate each of those present. Circumstances dictate that
Holmes solve the case before daybreak. He does this, or at least it
would appear so. It is left to Father Brown, however, to tie up a
few loose ends.

Let's be absolutely clear here: Kendrick's writing is nothing short
of brilliant. He is not new to Holmes; his previous work, HOLY
CLUES: The Gospel According to Sherlock Holmes, establishes him as
an expert on the literary icon. NIGHT WATCH, however, is even more
noteworthy for several reasons. Kendrick first playfully disposes
of the validity of previous posthumous Holmes stories, while
simultaneously carving out an exception for his own, and does this
so deftly that even the victims probably enjoyed it. He then
provides his readers with another side to Holmes's personality,
while nonetheless remaining true to the character. As if this were
not enough, Kendrick gives us a glimpse of London, at the turn of
the Century, through the eyes of one of its best known fictitious
citizens. At the same time, he provides us with a bit of heretofore
unrevealed backstory of the lesser known but equally cerebral
Father Brown, providing an introduction to this underrated
detective, which hopefully, will spark some renewed interest in
him. Kendrick frames all of this in what by anyone's standard is a
classic locked room --- er, church, mystery, with a solution that
will leave the reader laughing and shaking their head with delight.
Actually, make that endings.

Kendrick is a minister of the First and Second Church in Boston. I
would submit to you that if he brings the same literary approach to
his pulpit as he does to his keyboard, his services are standing
room only. I would guess that his other work, of both the literal
and spiritual bent, is worth checking out.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011

Night Watch: A Long-lost Adventure in Which Sherlock Holmes Meets Father Brown
by Stephen Kendrick

  • Publication Date: November 13, 2001
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon
  • ISBN-10: 0375403671
  • ISBN-13: 9780375403675