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One Must Tell the Bees

Abraham Lincoln and the Final Education of Sherlock Holmes

“What do you get when you cross Abraham Lincoln with Sherlock Holmes? The alchemy of creative genius. Matthews brings us to the intersection of history and fiction in this beautifully written epic full of unfathomable twists and turns. This book is sensational.”

- Jim Campbell, syndicated radio host and author of Madoff Talks

The ‘Spanish Influenza’ is raging across Europe and The Great War is drawing to a close when a retired Dr. John H. Watson hurriedly boards a train to the South Downs of England where Sherlock Holmes has been tending his bees and writing his memoirs. Watson carries a manuscript in his valise and this note in his pocket:


That I have become addicted to a particularly malignant class of opiates is the inescapable conclusion to which I have arrived after a brief but intensive period of self-examination, and it is in this moment of lucidity I call upon you to come to my aid.

Bring your medical kit, and please, come at once.

—Sherlock Holmes

“One Must Tell the Bees is an audacious, fascinating page turner that adds some unexpected twists to Arthur Conan Doyle’s beloved character. It’s also a timely reminder that we can’t—and shouldn’t—erase the past.”

- Bethany McLean, Co-Author of The Smartest Guys in the Room

As the train rattles southward, Watson pulls out the manuscript that arrived with the note. Titled “The Art and Science of Rational Deduction,” it is the treatise on his life’s work that Holmes has been promising to write for years, but Watson discovers it begins with a remarkable story—a story that had never been told…even to Watson.

This is the story of Sherlock Holmes’s journey from his childhood in the streets of London to the DuPont gunpowder works in America in the last year of the Civil War. His work there as a chemist earns him the trust of Edwin M. Stanton, the all-powerful War Secretary in the cabinet of President Abraham Lincoln and ultimately leads to young Holmes’s involvement in the most infamous manhunt in history—the 12 day hunt for John Wilkes Booth.

What a story! One Must Tell the Bees charms you out of your world and into an irresistible adventure when Sherlock Holmes steps onto American soil, into the White House of Abraham Lincoln and, yes, joins the manhunt for John Wilkes Booth. Holmes’s wit and Lincoln’s genius shine through, and the colorful characters, plot surprises, and wonderful historical details so completely immerse you that by the last page you’ll be happier and a whole lot wiser.”

- Layng Martine Jr., Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer turned memoirist of Permission to Fly

It is Sherlock Holmes’s very first case. 

But the shocking revelations in Holmes’s manuscript do not prepare Watson for what awaits him when he finally reaches Holmes’s cottage in East Dean and realizes that he will soon share Holmes’s very last case…

“The historical figures loom large in this tale, and are portrayed in a realistic manner, but the thing that I find most impressive (and something I look for in every historical-fiction book I read) is that the fictional characters are crafted in such a way as to make them appear to be historical as well…and that, my fellow readers, is the mark of excellent storytelling where the line between history and fiction has vanished into the realm of believability.”

- Hoover Book Reviews

At a time when Western history is being reevaluated and retold, when old heroes are being cast aside and their statues pulled down and names removed from public buildings, “One Must Tell the Bees” is a remarkably timely book that explores the evils of slavery through the eyes of a young Englishman who would grow up to be the greatest consulting detective the world has ever known, while reminding us of the importance of some of those heroes of the past—most particularly Abraham Lincoln and his Emancipation Proclamation—and the many good deeds among the bad during the American Civil War.

“Bracing storytelling.”

- Kirkus Reviews

And more than that, “One Must Tell the Bees” brings the full story of Sherlock Holmes’s life—and death—to light in a tender, evocative manner that only a writer steeped in the language and culture that produced Sherlock Holmes could achieve.

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