Review by Paul W. Smith
Retirement, dear Watson, is not for to be taken lightly. Great characters of literature don’t always die, they survive beyond the life of their creators, regenerated. With the new series of TV adventures underway, it’s no surprise that the greatest detective of all is given a new breath of life in a new library reprinting novels by contemporary writers who maintain the spirit of the original tales whilst adding new ingredients.
In these first two adventures, Holmes enters a world of psychics and the undead where murder seems to come beyond the grave. Seance for a Vampire (originally published in 1994) finds him investigating two seemingly fraudulent spiritualists who have been called in by Ambrose Attamount to make contact with his recently deceased daughter. A murder in the mansion only adds to the mystery, whether supernatural or not. But it means that Holmes can only solve the mystery with the help of his cousin, Count Dracula, encountering an undead Russian pirate and the mad monk himself, Rasputin. Fred Saberhagen, best known for his fantasy and science fiction tales such as The Swords and Berserker series, pens this dark detective tale and unites two literary greats. Indeed he also penned a whole series of Dracula/vampire tales popularising the bloodsuckers long before Twilight and True Blood. Perhaps it’s not surprising then that he divides the narrative between Dr Watson and the Count himself, which helps maintain the sense of intrigue. However, it has the feel of a more conventional mystery adventure rather than an assimilation of our favourite detective’s familiar deductive skills.
In complete contrast, The Seventh Bullet (originally published in 1992) is set in that favourite murder-mystery environment, the quaint English village, as well as in the bigger realms of America. In this instance, gossip writer David Graham Phillips has been assassinated. Someone obviously didn’t like their affairs being spread about; such a muck-raking individual was bound to create enemies with his revelations. Holmes is forced to interrupt his peaceful rural vacation as he solves the clues which reveal the motives for the murder and explain how seven bullets were fired from a gun that held only six. Could that mean the killer was silenced by another gunman rather than committing suicide? This volume is penned by David D. Victor and right from the start he’s determined to show an ageing sleuth who still lives with his extraordinary powers of perception. An enjoyably affectionate celebration of those original adventures.
Two very contrasting tales with equally varied styles, both proving that you can’t keep a good detective down.
Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Seance for a Vampire by Fred Saberhagen and The Seventh Bullet by Daniel D. Victor, Titan Books, pb, rrp £7.99 each. Rating: ***½