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Gaslight Grotesque: Nightmare Tales of Sherlock Holmes
Review by Mel Jacob
EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781894063319
Date: 16 October 2009 List Price $16.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Review from Oct. 2008 / Show Official Info /

Gaslight Grimoire offers an admixture of tales set in the Victorian era and focusing on Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson with supernatural elements at work. Because not all the stories feature Holes, it might better be titled: of Sherlock Holmes World. Taking a well-known and beloved fictional character and creating a cross genre piece doesn't always work. The editors and authors deserve congratulations for trying. Some dedicated Sherlockians will be offended or disappointed as will some fans of the supernatural. However, readers with open minds will find in the collection enjoyable tales.

The first story in Gaslight Grimoire, "The Lost Boy" has Holmes seeking the Darling children kidnapped by Peter Pan. The narrator is Mary Watson, Dr. Watson's ailing wife, now Holmes' helper in spirit form. Evil appears, but Peter and Holmes fight it. While well written, the concept of Holmes and Peter is hard to accept. Add in fairies and monsters and it's a tad over the top.

Several stories involve Holmes with detectives who specialize in the occult. These include "The Things that Shall Come Upon Them" with Flaxman Low and "The Grantchester Grimoire" with Thomas Carnacki. The first deals with an investigation of the former owner of the Fitzgerald home who indulged in the occult and his spirit may still be active. I prefer the second story with Carnacki willing to accept supernatural beings and Holmes insisting on a human agent. The story moves along as they struggle to save their client and themselves. It ends with a nice twist.

My least favorites are "His Last Arrow”, "The Finishing Stroke”, and "The Steamship Friesland". In "His Last Arrow”, Watson is the story's focus and presents a very different Holmes. It may shock some dedicated Holmes' fans. The action stems from Watson's service in the East. The ending also shocks. "The Finishing Stroke" resembles in some ways Wilde's "Picture of Dorian Gray". The only link between a number of brutally murdered people is that they all recently purchased a picture by a young artist. Holmes behaves in an uncharacteristic way to save his own life. "Steamship" disappoints because a ghost informs Holmes what happened and who committed the various murders.

The following three stories generate mixed reactions for the reasons given. "Sherlock Holmes in the Lost World" smacks more of steampunk than Sherlock Holmes. His part in this adventure is nominal. The addition of Professor Challenger's adventuresome daughter adds a modern touch. However, it doesn't explain why the caveman who so easily destroys some evil men hadn't done so before. "The Entwined" owes more to Dr. Watson's sharp ears than to Holmes deductions. Nothing indicates how another dimension is involved or why. Holmes plays a secondary role in "Merridew of Abominable Memory." Watson, in a rest home, retells a story of his memories to his doctor. No supernatural agents appear, only greed.

The "Red Sunset" is a hoot with all the clichés of a noir detective in Los Angeles of the 1940s with Count Dracula and his vampires. Holmes, pushing one hundred still knows how to play Van Helsing with a crotchety flair.

The last, "The Red Planet League," is fascinating for the language alone even though neither Holmes nor Watson appears. Colonel Moran relates how Moriarty, Holmes mortal enemy, is offended by the Astronomer Royal's trashing of his master work, The Dynamics of Asteroids, and plots a nasty revenge. A convoluted plan, aided by the arrogance of the man, ensures Moriarty's success. A hoax of major proportions ensues.

For the Holmes fans of mixed genre, other volumes have followed: Gaslight Grotesque: Nightmare Tales of Sherlock Holmes (2009) and Gaslight Arcanum: Uncanny Tales of Sherlock Holmes (Fall 2011).

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