In my review for the first book in the Sherlock Holmes vs. Cthulhu series, The Adventure of the Deadly Dimensions, I spoke about issues with the pacing of the story, that it at times felt a little too slow and overly long. Well, this is a criticism that I cannot place on Sherlock Holmes vs. Cthulhu: The Adventure of the Neural Psychoses.
The book opens with Holmes and Watson enjoying a ship ride along the Thames, investigating reports that some of the strange creatures they encountered in the climax of the previous book have escaped into the river. With little to no warning the ship is attacked by one of these creatures, but one that has now turned into a giant, tentacled monster that rips the ship apart and kills dozens of people. This is within the first twenty pages! Lois H. Gresh has really hit the ground running in this second volume, and is delivering so much of what I had hoped to have read in the first book.
Instead of a slowly unfolding mystery that hints at the existence of other worlds and monsters, Holmes and Watson are actively searching for a way to combat these monsters. Added into this a mysterious illness that is spreading throughout London, one that has even infected Watson, and the stakes for this book seem so much higher than the first volume.
The book has a much better pace than the first part, and despite having to introduce several new characters and story elements it never feels as bogged down as the first book. It’s only about 50 pages shorter, but due to the improved pacing I was able to read it in about half the time, and enjoyed it a whole lot more.
Another addition to the story that really helps to change things up and makes it a lot more entertaining is the introduction of Sherlock Holmes’ iconic foe, Professor James Moriarty. Instead of acting as a villain to Holmes, however, we get to see Moriarty having his own adventure, though one that ties into the main story. Obsessed with accumulating wealth and power, he tries to gain control of the tram machine that produces gold that was a central part of the first book, whilst also playing a part in the new addiction that is sweeping the capital, as well as trying to kidnap two of the central figures in the Cult of Dagon.
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Moriarty takes a very active part in this volume, and his chapters are some of the best in the whole book. We get to see the other side of the seedy underworld of London that Holmes and Watson occasionally visit, getting to know the inner workings of the criminal gangs.
A lot more happens in this book, thanks in part to it not having to establish so much of the characters and the world, but due to this being a middle part there are a number of plot threads left hanging come the final pages. Some of these, such as what will happen to Maria Fitzgerald and Amelia Scarcliffe, are more nebulous, with Gresh able to take them in any direction she wants for the final volume. There are others, however, that make it very clear the direction the last book will be taking, and its final revelation sets up a very exciting prospect.
Sherlock Holmes vs. Cthulhu: The Adventure of the Neural Psychoses is a big improvement on what was already a good first entry in the series; one that moves with a much better pace, and with a sense of excitement. The returning characters continue to entertain, whilst new characters, both original and from the Sherlock Holmes universe, fit in perfectly and add more to this shared universe. A brilliant second act to the story, it sets up some incredibly exciting things to come in the final part of the trilogy.