Spoiler Alert!!! Okay El Moochadores, I felt like I had to put a spoiler alert (for the first time) at the beginning of this review because some of the stuff in this book just needs talking about and I don’t want to take the time to “dance” around all the happenings. However, if you’re not inclined to have this novel spoiled, then please read the short synopsis below and know that I very much enjoyed this book. I’m still going to be critical of it, but it was fun! Having said that…
Titan Books has a new Sherlock Holmes novel out now in bookstores. Written by author James Lovegrove, the story of the world’s best 19th century detective is once again narrated by Holmes’s sidekick, Dr. Watson, as they pursue mad bombers through the streets of London with the help of a very strange vigilante. Here’s the synopsis:
It’s the autumn of 1890, and a spate of bombings has hit London. The newspapers are full of fevered speculation about anarchists, anti-monarchists and Fenians. But one man suspects an even more sinister hand behind the violence. Sherlock Holmes believes Professor Moriarty is orchestrating a nationwide campaign of terror, but to what end? At the same time, a bizarrely garbed figure has been spotted on the rooftops and in the grimy back alleys of the capital. He moves with the extraordinary agility of a latter-day Spring-heeled Jack. He possesses weaponry and armour of unprecedented sophistication. He is known only by the name Baron Cauchemar, and he appears to be a scourge of crime and villainy. But is this masked man truly the force for good that he seems? Is he connected somehow to the bombings? Holmes and his faithful companion Dr Watson are about to embark on one of their strangest and most exhilarating adventures yet.
Sherlock Holmes meets “Steam Batman” was my first impression of Lovegrove’s novel, and part of me really wanted to dismiss this book as pure fluff. However, it really was just too much damn fun. Over the years I feel like I’ve become less accepting of things. I kind of feel like I’ve become a sort of geeky curmudgeon, but this version of Holmes seemed to touch a nerve in me that a woke a younger and more accepting part of me. This is mostly because the writing was excellent and I felt Lovegrove captured the proper voice for characters of the 19th century. Either that or that’s how the English actually talk (how the hell would I know? I’m from California) but also the characters were what they were supposed to be. Holmes was brilliant and Watson was the perfect lens through which to “see” the detective at work, while the villains (Thibault de Villegrand and his brute, Abednago Torrence) were everything you could want to hate in proper bad guys. Even the introduction of the steam powered vigilante, Baron Cauchemar, (though outlandish) was easy to accept into the story with all the sympathy toward his tragic past and lost love. Even the stories more outlandish bits (a turbo ride through London’s sewers and the fighting Dirigible) worked extremely well in the context of this story. However, there were some moments that either were a little too tough to swallow or took me out of the story completely. One was the discovery of “keywords” in the network of London’s wire communications that the good Baron Cauchemar was able to decipher in his quest to fight crime. For some reason that seemed to put the breaks on the story and caused a “WTF” moment. This happened again at the end of the book when de Villegrand transforms his highspeed (sort of) train into a giant iron robot and attempts to run down a fleeing Holmes and Watson. For some reason I was a little more accepting of the giant robot over the keywords, but just barely, and mostly just because I love all things giant robot! And to be honest, it wasn’t too long after the introduction of the steam mecha that I was back into the story wonder how Holmes and Watson were going to take the monster down! All in all, I think there are a lot of things that could be criticized in this book, but don’t bother. It was meant to be fun and it was fun!
Sherlock Holmes: The Stuff of Nightmares can be found at all major book sellers or you can get your copy online at Titan Books!