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

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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.


Review: Mrs Hudson and the Malabar Rose January 9, 2016

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malabarAnother Netgalley review.

Martin Davies offers a fun, refreshing take on the world of Sherlock Holmes.

Holmes and Watson aren’t the only residents of 221B Baker St. There’s also Mrs Hudson and her young assistant, Flotsam, aka Flottie. At a time when a matter of national importance occupies the time of Holmes and Watson, what seems like a much simpler domestic matter may pass unnoticed… but Mrs Hudson can take care of this case while more prominent figures are busy elsewhere, with Flottie’s help. And it turns out that Mrs Hudson is a very smart and resourceful woman, and Flottie has her moments too.

And, not too surprisingly, the case of the missing husband and the case of the mysterious jewel thief who plans to steal the Malabar Rose turn out to be more complicated than they seem, and to have some unexpected connections.

Holmes and Watson are definitely supporting characters here; Flottie is the narrator, and she and Mrs Hudson are the stars of the show. They do what they do as women in Victorian London, sometimes unnoticed by the men around them, noticing domestic details that turn out to be very important.

All in all, a fun way to revisit the world of Sherlock Holmes that isn’t just another imitation of what we’ve already had many times over.

Review: The Great Detective by Zach Dundas April 3, 2015

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Another Netgalley free read in exchange for a review.

Whether you’re an old school Holmesian devoted to the canon or a Cumberbatch fan writing Sherlock fanfic, chances are you’ll find a lot to enjoy here. Zach Dundas was a Sherlock Holmes fan when he was young, and now that Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation is probably higher in profile now than he has been in decades, Dundas visits a variety of places and people to explore the life of Arthur Conan Doyle and that of Sherlock Holmes.

In a typical chapter, Dundas recounts a visit to a place or a meeting with a person linked in some way to Holmes. It may be a visit to 21st century Baker Street or Dartmoor, a meeting with a scholar or fan group, but it springboards to the topic of the chapter. You’ll learn about Conan Doyle himself, the publication of the Holmes stories, the multimedia world that grew from Holmes’s popularity, the erudite literary scholarship of some devotees and the freewheeling fanfic world of others.

Dundas is a knowledgeable devotee of the canon, and while he may not be too personally interested in some corners of the literary universe he’s exploring, he’s not a hidebound traditionalist who’d rather ignore all that stuff, either, From my perspective as a very casual fan, it seems to me that he’s presenting the whole picture to the extent that a single book for a mainstream audience can. As he points out, by now the phenomenon is simply too big to grasp — the pastiches, the fanfic, the movies and TV and radio episodes, the spinoffs, the other works of Conan Doyle, the biographies of Conan Doyle, and on and on. Ideally, though, this book may lead a few TV fans back to the original stories, and open some traditionalist/purists’ minds to the possibilities of the larger world of fandom out there.