Dr. Anton Kronberg, renowned bacteriologist, receives word that he is needed at what is believed to be a crime scene. A corpse with cholera has been dumped into the waterworks – was it an attempt to infect London? Another clever person has been summoned as well: Sherlock Holmes. Holmes figures something out about Dr. Kronberg that no one else knows. He’s a [spoiler]. Dr. Kronberg’s secret could get the good doctor arrested, and possibly even killed.
It turns out the man didn’t die of cholera, but of tetanus (which, apparently causes convulsions at the end, resulting in a horrible grimace, or “devil’s grin.”). And he may not have been alone before he ended up in the drink. But where did he come from, where was he going, and how did he get sick? Holmes and the doctor team up to investigate, and what they find takes them deep into a criminal conspiracy that may reach high levels of the government.
Wendeberg weaves an interesting tale of a complex character and integrates this story with the Holmes legend fairly smoothly. Dr. Kronberg and Holmes work well together, and Watson makes an appearance to help out (the story takes place just after he has married Mary).
A lot of the “insert classic here”-adjacent books are crap, but this one is actually well-written. It doesn’t really even need Holmes, but I’m guessing that a plain-old Victorian era mystery wouldn’t sell nearly as well without him.