Titan Books p/b Â£7.99
Reviewed by Mike Chinn
If you canâ€™t guess what youâ€™re in for by the book title, then the seven chapters contained herein arenâ€™t going to give it away, either: A Volume in Vermillion, A Shambles in Belgravia, The Red Planet League, The Hound of the Dâ€™Urbervilles, The Adventure of the Six Maledictions, The Greek Invertebrate and The Problem of the Final Adventure. Well of course itâ€™s elementary – theyâ€™re all clever plays on the titles of Sherlock Holmes stories. Much as this collection is.
Newman stands the Holmes/Watson relationship on its head: Professor James Moriarty is the genius at the centre of each tale, Colonel Sebastian Moran his Boswell. Each of the above tales has echoes of Conan Doyleâ€™s originals but heâ€™s not the only author to get the treatment. HG Wells, William Hope Hodgson, Anthony Hope and Thomas Hardy are just a few of the authors whose characters are drafted in. Watson is name-checked but neither Sherlock nor Mycroft Holmes is actually named. Moranâ€™s insolent writing style has far more interesting sobriquets for them both. Irene Adler does the dirty on the Professor just as she did Holmes – this time messing about with the aristocracy of Ruritania – but sheâ€™s by far a less ladylike creation here. Or at least, thatâ€™s how Moranâ€™s jottings portray her.
As in Newmanâ€™s Anno Dracula books, characters whose literary pedigree make themÂ contemporaries of Moriarty and Holmes flit by often in cameos so fast you can miss them, leaving you wondering: â€œWasnâ€™t thatâ€¦?â€ This is half the fun, of course. Some – like the Holmes brothers – arenâ€™t actually mentioned by name, so itâ€™s all the more delightful when you work it out.
There are several pages of footnotes at the end of the book, expanding on terminology, characters and sources; as well as three more pages of notes and acknowledgements. Fun and scholarly – two words you donâ€™t normally expect to see in the same sentence.