Sherlock Holmes vs. Cthulhu: The Adventure of the Innsmouth Mutations (Lois H. Gresh) – Review

The final part of the Sherlock Holmes vs. Cthulhu trilogy sees the titular detective leave London and travel across the Atlantic to face the Order of Dagon on their home turf, the town of Innsmouth.

Where the first two volumes felt like a Sherlock Holmes story that featured aspects of the Cthulhu mythos, being principally set in London and featuring characters from Doyle’s original work, Sherlock Holmes vs. Cthulhu: The Adventure of the Innsmouth Mutations is more grounded in the world of Lovecraft. It features locations from his work, such as Innsmouth and Arkham, and has a much bigger focus on the Order of Dagon.

This sudden change in tone is quite surprising and even a little jarring. It made it so that this final volume felt a little out of place with the others. However, whilst this change threw me a little, it didn’t detract from the overall quality of the read at all.

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Holmes, Watson, and Watson’s family, travel to the ruined town of Innsmouth at the behest of both the British and American governments, who are desperate for him to do something about the strange creatures appearing off Devil’s Reef, and the giant creature called Cthulhu. Yes, Cthulhu itself appears in this book, and even opens the story as it rises up from its watery depths with a host of otherworldly beings.

The inclusion of Cthulhu, though a long time coming, is still something that is a little surprising. This may be because after everything else that Holmes and Watson have already experienced, encountering a giant elder god just doesn’t phase them much. Cthulhu is treated with almost a casual air that struck me as slightly strange. Yes, the heroes have encountered dozens of monstrous creatures by this point, and their journey through Devil’s Reef is a particularly shocking and horrific moment for them, but I still expected something of a little disbelief at a being such as Cthulhu.

The change in the heroes, having gone from disbelieving that monsters can exist, to accepting them as being real but from a place and time that their science doesn’t yet understand, shows the growth that the two of them have made over the course of the trilogy, and sets these versions of Holmes and Watson aside from the originals. Seeing Holmes willing to not only accept that a giant sea monster is real, but devising a way to banish it back to its own dimension is a little strange, but by this point in the series has been well earned.

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What serves to be the biggest surprise in the story, however, is that Holmes and Watson do pretty much nothing in this book. Yes, they end up getting involved in a small mystery with the family that they’re staying with, and shed some light on the history of Innsmouth for the reader, but they do little to nothing to stop the creatures. This honour falls to Professor James Moriarty.

Having travelled to Innsmouth in order to further his greedy schemes, Moriarty finds himself in a situation well out of his control, and it’s a shock turn to see a character like Moriarty, who is usually so in control and so confident, reduced to living in the dirt, trying desperately to survive. This speaks volumes to the arrogance of the character, that he’d never expected to be so bested even by forces from another world.

Whilst the book is well written and the story is filled with twists and turns that will keep you guessing, the sudden change in tone, the fact that Cthulhu is treated as almost an everyday thing, and the very little that Holmes and Watson do to save the day make this a conclusion that felt a little flat in comparison to the second part. A good story, though not what I was expecting as the conclusion.

Sherlock Holmes vs. Cthulhu: The Adventure of the Innsmouth Mutations is out now from Titan Books.

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