Written by Joe Pranevich
|Elementary, my dear Watson!|
Our story begins bright and early one morning in the Baker Street residence of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, presented to us in a brief introductory movie. Watson is reading the morning paper and is livid at the Times for printing a story that “play(s) upon people’s superstitions”. Holmes recognizes the case immediately: a so-called mummy’s “curse” that has resulted in the deaths of three men. In fact, he’s been making inquiries already because he believes that the murderer is considerably younger than 4000-years old. The video ends and I am free to start my investigation.
Don’t most Holmes stories start with a “client”, someone that consults with Holmes to set him off on his way? It seems slightly out of character for him to just be picking crimes out of the newspaper. It’s possible that this sort of thing happened often in the original stories and I’ve just forgotten. Three murders to solve-- this should be fun!
|A veritable trove of very small print.|
I read the first newspaper, expecting it to relate to this first story, but can’t find the article that Watson is referring to. It takes me only a couple of minutes to work out the problem: the newspapers are all dated and in order that way, not by case. The introduction movie didn’t give us a date, but I find it in the manual: April 12, 1889. Looking around that date rewards me with several articles that have pertinent information:
- Dr. Ebenezer Turnbull was an archeologist, but he was murdered in Egypt, in a tomb that he was excavating, back in March.
- While bringing back finds from Turnbull’s expedition, a second archeologist was murdered en route. They were traveling by ship on the Eastern Empress. That murder happened around April 5, about a week before the present action of the game, and was investigated by two crewmen, Herman Ramsey and Luthor Tenney.
- A third archeologist, James Windibank, was killed in the British museum. He was strangled by mummy wrappings. Scotland Yard is investigating his death.
|We should build some sort of wall around Britain!|
But I’m not done with the paper quite yet… I get the idea to search back through the previous issues to see if any of the other murders were covered by the paper at the time. That searching is rewarded by several more clues: Turnbull was also strangled by bandages, plus his body was discovered by Weatherby-- soon to be victim number two. Going back even farther, I find a small note that the Eastern Empress was leaving Calcutta and that it is owned by “Jardine, Matheson, and Co.”
It’s been twenty minutes since I started this adventure and I haven’t even started to play the game yet! That has to be a record of some kind…
The first place to look might be Holmes’s personal files, but that doesn’t accomplish much. I learn that Turnbull, the first victim, was the third son of the Earl of Downey. Not that important. I also learn that Windibank was a professor at London University. None of the others have dossiers in our files, so we’re going to have to start hitting the pavement and finding clues.
Unfortunately, Henry wasn’t working on this story, but he knows the man who was: Philip Travis. He was the Times’s Cairo correspondent at the time of the first murder but has been transferred back to London to continue covering the story from here. Since he’s in London, we can look him up next!
|Only a murderer would wear that vest.|
So… he’s the first “suspect” that I’ve met, but I’m pretty sure he’s the murderer. He just came back from Cairo, so I’d wager that he was on the same ship as the guy that was murdered. That places him in the region of all three murders. But what evidence will I need to prove that? I throw the Irregulars at him, but they just tell me that he’s a loony. I knew that already!
|Some scenes interspersed old-style illustrations with the videos.|
I meet with him next and am given a much deeper insight into the voyage. He says that just having the mummy on board made the sailors superstitious, but having Travis spouting “mystic mumbo jumbo” made it much worse. I was right! Travis was on the ship as well! He and Windibank also fought a “war of words” on the ship. Beyond that, there were two other suspicious occurrences: a pair of Arab men with a mysterious box and some shipboard infidelity. One of the Arabs, Fahmi, had a mysterious box that the other, Al-Suad, wanted. But Tenney didn’t know what was in the box or why it was important to them. The potential affair seems more suspicious: Weatherby was trapped below deck and seasick for much of the journey, but during that time his wife was “galavanting” with another passenger, Mr. Uruburu. That could be a motive for his subsequent death, but it seems unconnected to the mummy mystery. Holmes drives the conversation back to the case at hand and Tenney reveals that when he discovered Weatherby’s body, the crate containing the mummy was opened. There was also a bowl containing ashes nearby, though the bowl subsequently went missing. Did the murderer come back to get it?
|A view of the London directory.|
Consulting Detective isn’t an adventure in the traditional sense and exploration doesn’t work like any game that I’ve ever played before. At any time, you have access to the “directory”, a list of seemingly hundreds of people and places across London. We can-- in theory, at least-- visit any of them, but the vast majority have nothing to do with the case. Just for giggles, I pick a name at random and head there just to see what happens: we get a brief illustration of a London street while Holmes berates Watson for wasting his time. The “directory” is complimented by the “notebook”, essentially a list of bookmarks. By selecting names in the directory and clicking on the notebook icon, we copy the name there. It seems good practice to put in there every name that has come up in conversation. It doesn’t seem to be required-- you can do all the same actions with either the directory or the notebook-- but it’s a lot less pages to flip through. But while the “notebook” lets you remember all the names you come across, you can’t annotate it. If you want to take real notes, you have to do it with real pen and paper.
Once we have a name of a place or witness that we want to explore, we have a couple of options. From top to bottom, we can either send Holmes and Watson to visit the person, search for the person in Holmes’s personal files, or send the Irregulars there. When we do a visit, sometimes Holmes goes, sometimes Watson goes, and sometimes both. We don’t really have a POV character, although the game implies that you are Watson more often than not. One thing that confused me is that there is no icon for the “Regulars”, like there is for the “Irregulars”. Instead, you have to search the directory for their names just like anyone else. It’s not a huge deal, but if there are people you are expected to talk with frequently then it might have been nice to make it easier to remember who they were. The remaining two icons are the newspaper and the court. I’ve already showed you the former, but we’ll get to the latter when I’m sure I know who did it.
|Only eight passengers coming back from Egypt? How do they make a profit?|
Before I can dig at this, Holmes speaks up and says he’s solved this case already and this murder has nothing to do with the others. This guy has been stabbed-- not strangled, so it’s a different pattern. Holmes deduces that since he’s rich enough to have a butler, but that his butler hasn’t discovered his body yet, there can be only one answer: the butler did it. I win at least one of my predictions! Does this count? Either way, we move on because this is a literal dead end.
My next stop is Mr. Uruburu and he seems to still have a hangover. He claims that he didn’t kill Mr. Weatherby because he and Mrs. Weatherby were too busy “partying” from Cairo to London. Right. She’ll be my next target.
|Clarissa doesn’t explain it all, or much at all.|
The last of the potential witnesses was Louise Fenwick. I visit her house and interview her along with her husband, Merrill. It’s clear that the passenger list is wrong because he was on the ship with her, but he wasn’t on the passenger manifest. Is that a clue? Or a bug? They are immediately defensive, seeming to resent me for even questioning them. They returned to London after only two weeks in Egypt because their dog, Dickie, got sick. Even worse, the dog wasn’t allowed in her cabin and had to travel in cargo. Merrill seems quite mean to his wife and they may be having some marital problems, although I do not see how that might connect to the murder.
|The Fenwicks are not very helpful.|
What do you think? Do we have a serial murderer here or several killers all using the “mummy’s curse” to enact their various revenge plots? I’m going to have to keep working on this next week. WIll I be able to solve the case? Let’s find out!
Time played: 1 hr 50 min
Total time: 1 hr 50 min