Athelstan Helms
Fictional Character
POD: c 85,000,000 BCE;
Relevant POD: 1452
Appearance(s): "The Scarlet Band"
Type of Appearance: Direct
Nationality: United Kingdom
Date of Birth: 19th century
Occupation: Consulting Detective

Athelstan Helms was a famous British private detective. He and his partner/biographer, Dr. James Walton, traveled to the United States of Atlantis in the late 19th century to investigate a series of murders associated with the controversial sect, the House of Universal Devotion.[1]

Unlike Walton, Athelstan Helms did not readily express disgust for Atlantean culture. He wasn't terribly impressed with the talents of their chief liaison in the Hanover police, Inspector La Strada, but didn't disdain him for his Italian ancestry. Helms viewed the House of Universal Devotion with a certain contempt, but he disdained religion generally. Nonetheless, he was determined to find the elusive Samuel Jones, aka "The Preacher", the founder of the House.[2]

After reviewing the files on the various murders in Hanover, and failing to get in touch with Jones via the House, Helms and Walton were tipped off that Jones was in Thetford, one of the House's strongholds in the country.[3] They immediately traveled to the town by train. Just after they met with Sergeant Casimir Karpinski, Helms discovered Preacher Jones disguised as a janitor on the platform. After Helms questioned Jones, the two Englishmen retired to a hotel.[4] Over dinner, the two were joined by Benjamin Joshua Morris, a lawyer who claimed to have substantial evidence of Preacher Jones' misdeeds. Morris left the hotel and was unexpectedly shot to death.[5]

The truth of the murders came to light shortly after, as Helms immediately suspected Karpinski, who was present at the murder scene too quickly and smelled of black powder. Helms confronted the police officer, and extracted a confession to being part of a larger conspiracy to frame the House.[6] Helms presented his findings at a press conference at Bronvard University, where Karpinski implicated La Strada. La Strada attempted to kill Karpinski, but was subdued by an alert reporter.[7]

However, the revelation of vast conspiracy did not endear Helms and Walton to the Atlantean population, which now realized that the House was immune from criticism. Helms and Walton fled. Their voyage back to England was made more pleasant by Polly and Kate, two of Jones' Handmaidens of the Spirit, sent as an expression of the Preacher's gratitude.[8]

Basil Rathbone, arguably the best known 20th-century actor to play Holmes.

Literary comment[]

Athelstan Helms is rather closely based upon Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's literary detective Sherlock Holmes. As Holmes was not yet in the public domain when "The Scarlet Band" was published, Harry Turtledove obfuscated the identities of his two protagonists.


  1. See e.g.: Atlantis and Other Places, pgs. 373-377, HC.
  2. Ibid., pgs. 378-387.
  3. Ibid., pgs. 392-399.
  4. Ibid., pgs. 409-415.
  5. Ibid., pgs. 417-419.
  6. Ibid., pgs. 419-421.
  7. Ibid., pgs. 430-436.
  8. Ibid., pgs. 438-440.