Melissa Alton
Florida Air Academy
English Department Chair
Author Jamyang Norbu
Connections to Doyle's Sherlock Holmes
Connections to Kipling's novel Kim
What is a pastiche?
The setting: 19th century India and Tibet
Additional activities
Another detective in Tibet
Additional novels set in the Himalayas

The Setting: 19th Century India and Tibet

The following are a list of locations that appear in Jamyang Norbu's novel. Click on the links to learn more about these places.

Bombay (Mumbai)

"The air, washed by the recent rains, is so fresh and clear that astride Malabar Point at Bombay one fancies that one can make out the coast line of Arabia..."
Simla (Shimla)


"Simla, the summer capital of the Government of India since 1864, is a most delightful and sophisticated town."

Shimla, c. 1900



"The town of Rampur is on a small level tract of ground about a hundred feet above the river which it overhangs...The town has a good deal of trade with Thibet."


Rampur c. 1911



"After two days we reached the town of Tsaparang, once the capital of the ancient Thibetan kingdom of Guge, abandoned around 1650 because of incessant wars and a drop in the water table."



"Next day we rode into Tholing, the other capital of the kingdom of Guge. This town is more populated and relatively prosperous. It has a picturesque monastery with golden canopies and spires, and is considered to be the largest and oldest monastery in western Thibet."


Monks of Tashi Lhunpo, early 20th c.

Mount Kailash
"Then, as we were approaching the tasam at Barga, a chain of glaciers, gleaming in the evening sun, came into view, and with it the towering Gurla Mandatha peak and the most holy mountain of Kailash."


"It took us another three weeks to get to Shigatse. We were fortunate to be able to visit the great monastery of Tashi Lhunpo and see its treasures..."



"We reached Lhassa in the late afternoon of the 17th of May, 1892. When we came around the last bend on the pilgrim road from Gyangtse, we had our first view of the great Potala palace floating high above the green fields of the Kyichu (Happy River) valley."

Potala Palace, 1901 (courtesy of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Library)


Before reading, give students a blank map of the Himalayan region. You can find one here. Have students use the Internet (or, if you're adventurous, an atlas) to map the locations in the novel. Do this BEFORE handing out the novel, as the novel has a map at the beginning for reference.

Norbu's novel is set in the late 19th century. Though students may view the Himalayan region as backward and primitive, much has changed in the last century. Assign students a town along Holmes's route and have them research what is happening there today. Students can present their findings to the class.

This site was created by Melissa Alton at the NEH Summer Institute "Literatures, Religions, and Arts of the Himalayan Region," held at the College of the Holy Cross, Summer 2011.