I found a very enjoyable read in Len Bailey’s Sherlock Holmes and the Needle’s Eye, The World’s Greatest Detective Tackles the Bible’s Ultimate Mysteries. Walking through a Christian bookstore one day I saw the title and ferociously grabbed it off the shelf without hesitation. I am a huge Sherlock Holmes fan and have read most of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic short stories, seen every classic Holmes movie with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as Holmes and Watson, love the Robert Downey Jr. movies, and I am greatly anticipating the third season of the BBC’s modern take on Sherlock Holmes with the amazing Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role. So I’m a little obsessed with the Holmes stories and already know the main characters. Yet it was curiosity above all that made me pounce on the book like a lion of the Serengeti pouncing on a gazelle. How was the author going to incorporate such a well known and popular character, which has never been involved with Christianity before, into a bible study-like book in a novel format? Would it work well? I had to find out.
Adventure, mystery, comedy, and spiritual lessons abound for Holmes and Watson in this new spin on classic characters. In the story, Holmes has become even more of a recluse after he becomes bored and depressed after the final end to his arch enemy Moriarty and Holmes has seemingly vanished from London. Watson searches for his friend and the mystery grows when a giant hole is burned in one of the walls of their flat at 221b Baker St. Two men force Watson to a ship at the docks called The Viceroy of India. Watson finds his friend in a dark room in the ship seemingly gone mad and weary with exhaustion. “Watson! I am mad with exhilaration. I have made the most stupendous discovery!” cries Holmes. After a time Holmes explains that he has been working on building a mysterious machine, The Needle’s Eye, the plans for which originally belonged to Moriarty. The machine turns out to be a time machine and the adventure begins after the two are sent back in time to various biblical locations where they find a message at each location that a mysterious client wants them to solve. Holmes is drawn by his curiosity and the need for adventure and Watson is drawn for those reasons too, but also for a spiritual desire to draw closer to God. Holmes is somewhat of an atheist in the beginning but both of the characters develop a greater sense of respect for the men and women of the Bible.
This book works. The author accomplished his purpose well. I got so caught up in the story I almost didn’t realize I was learning about the Bible too. Like many great stories, you start to develop an emotional connection with the characters as they encounter dangers and overcome struggles. The book is well written and spun with suspense and humor.
I was also surprised by what mysteries the famous detective is asked to solve. Mysteries like: Why did David take five stones against Goliath? Why did Ahithophel hang himself? Why did the Lord have the walls of Jericho collapse? Why did Jesus delay His coming to Lazarus? and many more. What first appears as simple passages that I have read over many times in the Bible prove to be a wealth of knowledge and insight if you take the time to ask questions and look deeper. Besides weaving a fun story, the author also invites you to think more critically about the Bible and the world around you.
This story also did something a book hasn’t done in a long time. Re-ignited a spark in me to want to be a writer. It also re-ignited a passion for God’s word and reminded me the need for weekly and even daily bible study. There is so much to be learned from the Bible and so many lessons we never thought we would find. I got so enthralled in the story at times and lost in it I completely forgot about the world around me and did not want to put the book down. I hope to convey that same emotion and excitement to readers one day. The book has main characters that many people around the world are familiar with but using those characters and an original work of fiction that also works as a Bible study aid and a book for church small groups is a very unique idea.
The book is divided into two sections. The first being the main narrative with each chapter being a separate adventure and mystery. The second part of the book has biblical references and questions to ask yourself or as a group for a small Bible study that the author asks the reader to read first if using strictly as a bible study, and then read the chapter that study is based on. There is a notes section in the back of the book with scripture references and also a bibliography with references to certain Sherlock Holmes stories that are mentioned or were used to inspire part of the book.
Sherlock Holmes and the Needle’s Eye is a great read, even if you have never read a Sherlock Holmes story before. A perfect read for lovers of adventure, mystery, humor, or for anyone looking for a unique Bible study idea. I highly recommend it.
– James Osborne, Contributing Writer