“It was a foggy London evening in the Spring of 1901…”
So begins John Woolley, Master Aenigmatist, in “The Double Elimination Conundrum”, the first in the Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Diplomat series that first appeared in The Diplomatic Pouch in the Spring 1995 issue.
In the last twenty years some 12 different authors have contributed their talents to creating and/or solving the various Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Diplomat mysteries:
- Ackland, Graeme
- Carroll, Chuck
- Cohen, David E
- Hand, Manus
- Huys, Mario
- Kieslich, Brian
- McCue, Jonathan
- Mead, Eric
- Pederson, Eric
- Szykman, Simon
- Wagoner, Erick and McLachlin, Derek
- Woolley, John
Mario pointed out to me that there were 20 riddles posed in the published articles and 25 solutions to the riddles published in another 25 articles, making for a total of 45. In the Reading List at the end of this article you’ll find a complete list of all the articles published prior to this issue. You can then click on whichever one strikes your fancy.
In an effort to pick out The Best from the rest of the best I asked three of the best SHCD writers (Graeme Ackland, Manus Hand and Mario Huys) to pick their favorites and write a few words about them. I hope this may help you as you go through the list of offerings and do remember that writing the riddle is usually the easy part, finding the solution can be far more time consuming, so be sure to read the solution after you’ve read the riddle. No fair peeking!
Mario Huys' list
In historical order, rather than in order of preference:
The Case of the Lethal Alliance (Eric Pederson)
A murder mystery in the tradition of Clue and the whodunnits of old. Very convincing, stressing the point of giving due attention to the story development in creating an attractive puzzle.
A Challenge from Devonshire (Manus Hand)
The puzzle that set me on the path to writing my own Holmes stories. The solution was far from unique, to Manus' dismay, but several rounds of fleshing out gave enough material to correct the original problem and add a number of follow-up articles.
The Hunt for The Venison Camper (Szykman and Hand)
When I started to systematically attempt to solve every riddle, this was one of the first to tackle. What a tour de force in creative writing! I ended up writing a small script to find every last anagram, and in the process discovered one error, which was subsequently corrected. It didn't end there, as there was still a second puzzle to solve, with [spoiler warning] a famously long convoy as the cherry on the cake.
The Strange Case of the Confederation of Neutral States (Graeme Ackland)
It's hard to pick the best Graeme Ackland story, our most prolific puzzle maker to date. He ties in number of stories with Manus, but Manus sometimes had co-authors. This riddle is noteworthy for spanning 3 game years, where most content themselves with 2 or only 1 game year. LMS (Last Man Standing) spans 4, which is part of the reason that no solution article has been written yet. The longer the game span, the more choices there are and the more opportunities exist for variations that the author didn't foresee. After some intensive brain gymnastics, I found one that had a different fate for the fleet in St. Pete.
The Curious Case of the False Start (Manus Hand)
I had so much fun besting Manus' baker's dozen as the maximum number of disbands, until he pressed me into rewriting the solution article. He has the very positive attitude that better solutions should be recognized and incorporated, rather than leaving things as they are. In the process I found some other variations and worked that into a sequel that is currently unfolding elsewhere in this Zine.
Graeme Ackland’s list:
My absolute favourite puzzle of my own is The Great Disarmament Conundrum, with a simple unique formulation and unique solution.
I enjoyed the various "Last man standing" puzzles. (The Costly Case of the Last Man Standing by Huys and Hand). Note: He's referring to a challenge Mario gave us to discover all the capitals Army Liverpool, the last remaining unit in the first part of the puzzle, could end up in in the given time frame with the rest of the board eliminated, no neutral centers ever taken, and no powers eliminated in the first two years. There are more than you would expect, and some are real brain twisters.
Most of the puzzles are quite a time investment to solve, so I also like the Missing-Border which is quick. (The Case of the Missing Border by Graeme Ackland, Solution to The Case of the Missing Border by Jonathan McCue).
Manus Hand’s list:
The Hounds of the Basker… er, I mean the Hounds'-poop of the Westminster. Watery, though? Larry, you're giving away the ending!!
And of course there’s that famous SHCD story about The Case of the Dead Hand which involves one of our own, dear Manus. It has to do with a plot by a group of sinister Russian anarchists called The Oreoists, who plan to blow up London taking Karl Marx and Sherlock Holmes with it…
And there you have them, eight of the best of the SHCD stories as picked by the men who wrote them. And with luck there’ll be many more to come in the future.
"There's no time for that, I'm afraid. I saw the carriage with our guests appear in our street just now." He picked up the fleet in Brest and dropped it in Marseilles. "Your missing convoy, to Brest through Burgundy and Paris, length two. No doubt you would have discovered it yourself in time, but what you will come to hear next may well require your full attention. Straighten your jacket, that must be them at the doorbell now."
And so ends “Solution to the Suwati Portage Conundrum”, the most recent of the Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Diplomat series written by Mario Huys, published in TDP in the Spring of 2014.
Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Diplomat
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