SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE CHRISTMAS DEMON By James Lovegrove
Titan Books, e/b, £4.68
Reviewed by Matthew Johns
Despite the inconvenient death of his creator, Sherlock Holmes lives on thanks to the talent of authors like Lovegrove who bring him back to life and put him into all manner of exciting and inventive adventures. In this excellent novel, Holmes and Watson finally get their own “Christmas special”. After apprehending a felonious Father Christmas at a department store in London’s Oxford Street, Holmes and Watson are enjoying a hot drink to warm themselves when they are approached by a nervous young lady seeking their help.
Eve Allerthorpe comes from a wealthy Yorkshire family, and stands to inherit a substantial amount of money on her 21st birthday from an aunt on the condition that she is “sound of mind”. She worries that as her mother suffered from mental illness and committed suicide that this may well be an inherited trait that she will begin to exhibit and will therefore not inherit her aunt’s fortune. This is further exacerbated by the fact that she believes she is being haunted by both a ghost and a nightmarish creature from Yorkshire folklore – the Black Thurrick. Holmes and Watson agree to travel to Yorkshire to spend Christmas with the Allerthorpe family to help Eve unravel the mystery of the hauntings and prove her mental health one way or another.
Lovegrove seems to channel the penmanship of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle throughout – his dialogue and accompanying prose feels authentic, but not dated. Some period tales can feel awkward and difficult to read, but Lovegrove manages to avoid the awkwardness and make this easy to read and entertaining without losing the overall feel of what a Sherlock Holmes tale should be. The Allerthorpe household is filled with characters of all shapes that will be familiar to anyone that has read a similar book before – the proud, patriarchal figure, the son who stands to inherit everything but enjoys wine, women and gambling just a little too much, the flighty daughter, the strong but silent butler, the skilled cook with a sharp tongue, the saucy maid, the philandering husband and many more. However, these do not feel like caricatures, and their portrayal works well. He also brings the landscape and buildings to life beautifully – describing them so well that the reader can visualise them with ease and they almost become secondary characters in the plot.
Whether you’ve read any of the original Holmes stories or not, this is an excellent addition to the genre and should be on the reading list of any fan of mysteries. Lovegrove has a substantial back catalogue of Holmes and Watson adventures, including some crossovers with Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos (a popular genre combination, it seems) that are worth investigating.