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Review: Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell by Paul Kane June 26, 2016

Posted by sjroby in Book reviews.
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cover90653-mediumAnother Netgalley review, written in exchange for a free advance e-copy.

This is an odd one. Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson encounter the world of Clive Barker’s Hellraiser? Strange but true.

Short version: it’s cheesy pulp stuff, not on par with either Conan Doyle or Barker, but I raced through it anyway.

Unlike the usual Holmes pastiche, this one is only occasionally told from Watson’s perspective, because Kane wants to follow Holmes through places Watson doesn’t go. This is a Holmes who’s returned from Reichenbach Falls a changed man, one who’s causing Watson concern. It turns out something strange happened the the Falls and Holmes suspects something bad is coming, so he tries to distance himself from Watson and others. The situation gets off to a slow start with a series of unlikely disappearances, but as the Hellraiser material works its way into the story, things get stranger and stranger, until (spoiler) you end up with Watson and an even more changed Holmes leading a war in Hell — with the Cenobites on their side.

Kane tries at times to emulate Conan Doyle’s style but keeps letting anachronistic turns of phrase slip in. No one’s going to read this and marvel at its beautiful prose. But, aside from moments (that may have been cleaned up since the galley) of awkward phrasing and repetition, the book flows well enough.

Kane, an expert on Hellraiser, apparently, throws in any number of references to the original Barker story and the many movies, short stories, and comics that expand on its mythology, He also throws in references to the works of other writers– friends, presumably. After all the references, I started taking for granted that any character mentioned had apppeared somewhere else already. More dedicated Hellraiser fans than I will be spotting names and plot points from any number of sources. (I was a big Barker fan from the mid-80s through the mid-90s or so.)

I’m not going to try to make a case for this being a particularly good book. I will say that, approached with the right attitude and expectations, it can be enjoyable enough. I just think it would have been stronger if it had hewn closer to the Holmes canon and not felt the need to overdo the Hellraiser references.