Amy Walker catches up with some of the new Sherlock Holmes releases from Titan Books, including the festive Sherlock Holmes & The Twelve Thefts of Christmas, the Lovecraftian horror of The Cthulhu Casebooks: Sherlock Holmes and the Highgate Horrors, and the horror filled The Classified Dossier: Sherlock Holmes and Mr Hyde.
Sherlock Holmes & The Twelve Thefts of Christmas (Tim Major)
Mysteries work well around the festive season. There’s something about being indoors, with a nice hot drink (and an open fire if you’re lucky!) and spending the day reading about people trudging through the cold and the snow trying to find the answers to a puzzle. This is something that Sherlock Holmes finds himself doing a lot across the multiple stories that have come out over the last century, and it’s something that goes well with the character. For those that enjoy this particular type of mystery book, Sherlock Holmes & The Twelve Thefts of Christmas, as the name suggests, offers more than just one mystery to get stuck into.
Things begin simply enough, when Holmes and Watson receive a Christmas gift of theatre tickets from a former client, and whilst Watson is delighted at the gift, Holmes knows that this particular client wouldn’t send such a gift, and that something else must be going on. Heading to the theatre, Holmes seems enraptured by a strange singer on stage, who soon flees. He reveals to Watson that the singer was none other than ‘The Woman’, Irene Adler, and that she had begun a mysterious game for him to solve. Thus begins a series of strange crimes and mysteries that our detective duo will need to investigate.
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Sherlock Holmes & The Twelve Thefts of Christmas is not your typical Holmes book, in that it doesn’t have a single central mystery that needs solving. Instead, the book sprinkles several throughout the story, some more obvious that others. A theft of a statue from a museum, and a river running dry are two of the most obvious, yet Adler always seems to have something going on in the background that eagle-eyed readers will have to try to spot. There’s also a sub-plot about a series of mysterious packages being left to torment a pair of Norwegian polar explorers that need the pair’s attention, resulting in a story where the characters are left running ragged.
The book moves at a very brisk pace, and several of the mysteries are solved the very same chapters in which they’re introduced, leaving the reader with not a whole lot of time to try and figure things out for themselves. The quality of the mysteries varies somewhat too, with some of them barely feeling like mysteries, whilst others take up a surprising amount of space within the book. The result is a book that feels a little frantic at times, that jumps from plot to plot as Holmes obsesses about the challenge Adler has left him. Despite this, it’s an enjoyable story that puts an interesting spin on how the character approaches a mystery.
Sherlock Holmes & The Twelve Thefts of Christmas is out now from Titan Books.
The Cthulhu Casebooks: Sherlock Holmes and the Highgate Horrors (James Lovegrove)
James Lovegrove is a name that fans of the Titan Books Sherlock Holmes novels will know well, as he’s written a number of books for them, including festive mysteries, and a sequel to The Hound of the Baskervilles. But he’s also veered somewhat away from the traditional Holmes tales on occasion, blending horror into the world of the consulting detective with The Cthulhu Casebooks series. As the title suggests, this series of books brings the work of H.P. Lovecraft to that of Sherlock Holmes, and crafts a story where Holmes and Watson face off against otherworldly horror in order to protect our world from begins of cosmic power.
The Cthulhu Casebooks: Sherlock Holmes and the Highgate Horrors might be the fourth book in this series, but it’s as accessible as if it were the first, and doesn’t rely on the reader having knowledge of what came before. As with the original stories, the books are written in such a way that they’re episodic and isolated, with only small references to things that have come before. This book tells several short stories set in this universe, all of which could stand on their own as superb supernatural tales, but together make for a wonderful collection.
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Despite blending these two classic literary worlds together the book never loses the charm that the Sherlock Holmes stories have, and it’s still very much one of his books. I’ve read a lot of pastiches where Holmes is blended with other properties or genres, and there are occasions when that melding becomes a bit too much, and the book basically ceases to resemble what it was drawing from. Lovegrove knows how to avoid this, and can have Sherlock Holmes confronting zombies and monstrous creatures whilst still being the same character that you’ve read in the original tales.
Whilst the reading experience for this book is enriched if you have already read the other books in the series, its ability to stand on its own means that anyone leaning towards reading it can pick it up and try it out. It acts as both a great companion piece to the series, and a stand-alone book that fans of the two genres can enjoy.
The Cthulhu Casebooks: Sherlock Holmes and the Highgate Horrors is out now from Titan Books.
The Classified Dossier: Sherlock Holmes and Mr Hyde (Christian Klaver)
The Classified Dossier: Sherlock Holmes and Mr Hyde is the second book in a new series that’s blending together several popular works from the Victorian era into a shared universe of the supernatural and the bizarre, all told through the eyes of Doctor John Watson. The first book in the series, Sherlock Holmes and Count Dracula, introduced Holmes and Watson to the realm of the supernatural when vampiric killing began in London, perpetrated by none other than the recently transformed Professor Moriarty. Whilst the duo were able to stop his plans, with the help of Count Dracula and his wife Mina, Watson was transformed into a vampire.
In the second book, the now vampire Watson and Holmes begin to investigate a series of killings across London; killings that suggest the return of Jack the Ripper. However, when a new client arrives at Baker Street claiming that his friend has been accused of the crime the two detectives encounter a whole new realm of the paranormal, as the two men, Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde, are more closely connected than the two first believe. Over the course of the book, with the assistance of some old allies, Holmes and Watson will face off against other powered individuals as they try to get to the bottom of the strange killings.
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Klaver’s previous entry in this series did a lot of world building, and spent a good portion of the first part of the book introducing the supernatural and fantastical elements and making them work with a grounded character like Holmes. And whilst all of that was wonderful to read, it’s stuff that you don’t really need in a second volume, and as such, Sherlock Holmes and Mr Hyde feels a lot quicker paced, and more filled with action. Part of this is because yes, there is more action to it, and the mystery elements take something of a back seat as the characters deal with the hunt for the Ripper. They’re not really examining crime scenes in great detail, nor are they solving puzzles. Instead, Holmes gets what he needs from them, and then sets out to catch the killer in the city with the help of his allies. It feels like a more decisive and driven Holmes than some versions, but it’s still unmistakably Holmes.
Klaver manages to bring several well known characters together in a new and interesting way, and makes a shared supernatural universe that Holmes not only works well in, but one that I want to read more of. The two volumes we have for this series have already managed to pack a lot into them, but it also feels like there’s the potential for so much more. If you’re a fan of Victorian era horror fiction, and love Sherlock Holmes, this title is going to be a must read for you.
The Classified Dossier: Sherlock Holmes and Mr Hyde is out now from Titan Books.