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Item - The Lost Heir

Series: Sherlock Holmes Solo Mysteries — no. 8
Translated Into: L'erede scomparso (Italian)
El heredero desaparecido (Spanish)
L'héritier disparu (French)
Author: Lientz, Gerald
Illustrators: Bauman, Jill (cover)
Versandi, Bob (interior)
Date: Unpublished
Length: 409 sections plus prologue
User Summary: A wealthy man needs your help to find his nephew, who disappeared as a boy under tragic circumstances. Since an inheritance is at stake, five different men have shown up, each claiming to be the rightful heir. Are they all imposters, or is the real nephew among them? Things are further complicated when you discover someone is trying to assassinate one of the candidates...
Guillermo's Thoughts: (review based on the Spanish translation)

This final Sherlock Holmes Solo Mysteries gamebook was never published in English, but contracts were apparently signed in a timely fashion, since at least the Spanish and French translations were published. The Spanish publication date is 1989, so the difference between the English and Spanish copyrights must be of only a few months. I'm not sure what caused the series to be cancelled, since this book was completely written and at least another one was planned before the plug was pulled. It may have something to do with the financial troubles Iron Crown Enterprises suffered as a results of conflicts with Tolkien Enterprises over the rights to publish Middle-Earth gamebooks. Historical speculation aside, it's a shame this book never saw the light of day in its original language, since it's a very good gamebook. It has many things that made previous Gerald Lientz entries so good, while also for the most part overcoming their flaws. An aspect-by-aspect explanation is in order.

The design of the adventure is gorgeous. Like the first book in the series, Murder at the Diogenes Club, the adventure begins with the player having to solve a short sports-related case. This time the player needs to keep his / her eyes and ears open in order to discover a cheater in a golf game. The book begins with a short explanation of the basics of the game of golf, which was very useful for a layman like myself. Figuring out the solution to this first case is not easy, since it requires a lot of luck with die rolls, but it's not frustrating, since only a few clues are needed. After this, the case involving the heir's identity begins. It's actually a very entertaining case: the writing is more lively than usual for a Gerald Lientz book, and things are further aided by the fact that this book has fewer sections and larger print than most of the other books in the series, so the adventure is never tedious or overlong. Fortunately, there are not too many witnesses to interview, and the conversations don't drag on for too long. Speaking of interviews, this book introduces a refreshingly original idea: a "question guide" that takes the form of a paragraph matrix at the beginning of the book. The columns of the matrix each represent one candidate, while the rows each represent one question regarding the heir's identity. By matching a row with a column, the player can choose to ask the questions to the candidates in any order s/he wishes, or to forfeit asking one specific question. This is a nice space-saver and offers lots of flexibility.

Gameplay-wise, the book is quite challenging. Not only do you need to be lucky with die rolls, but the choices are often difficult, and wrong decisions can seriously impair the investigation. In some instances, the player is asked to choose from a list of alternative conclusions after, for example, examining an old document. Choosing a wrong one can mean the character makes a wrong deduction and is misled during the rest of the adventure. Fortunately, the player may choose to use skill rolls to help choose the correct deduction, but these skill checks are usually not easy. In spite of its difficulty, the adventure is intriguing and fast-paced enough that going through it more than once will not be much of a problem.

The attempt to assassinate one of the candidates makes up a subplot of the adventure, and player agency plays a critical role in it. If the culprit is not discovered soon enough, chances are good the character won't be able to stop the candidate from being finally murdered. Stopping the murder, or finding out the culprit after it's committed, serve to add interest to what is already a very good adventure.

Overall, I would recommend this book if you are proficient in one of the languages in which it was published. It's a worthwhile conclusion to one of the greatest gamebook series of all time. I only hope these books could see a re-release like that of series such as Choose Your Own Adventure and Fighting Fantasy, because they really deserve it.

More reviews by Guillermo

Special Thanks:Thanks to Guillermo Paredes for the plot summary.
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