Amy Caudill‘s review
In one of the more creative takes on the stories originally penned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, James Lovegrove combines the classic Holmes with stories from another period author, H.P. Lovecraft, for a detective horror fiction that pays tribute to both genres.
In the forward to The Shadwell Shadows, the first book of the trilogy The Cthulu Casebooks, the author claims to be a distant relative of Lovecraft, who “inherited” these manuscripts from his estate. He has decided to share with the world the unbelievable and potentially panic-inducing tales as a public service, letting the readers make up their own minds as to validity.
He portray a very different first meeting for Holmes and Watson, where Watson’s war wounds came from a brush with the supernatural, and Holmes’ early cases have already demonstrated that there are inexplicable events happening in Victorian London. He states, as the narrator in Watson’s voice, that the true events that happened during Holmes and Watson’s long association were too controversial, too fantastical, to bring to public knowledge.
The basic plot of this volume revolves around a number of mysterious deaths, mostly of indigents and outcasts of society, that Scotland Yard spend little effort on and so fail to connect. However, Holmes does find a connection, and follows it, along with his new roommate Watson, to an opium den run by a wealthy immigrant who has delved into studies of dark rituals and old gods that are all but forgotten in polite society. This is only the jump-off point to awareness of monsters in the dark, magic rituals and horrors that Holmes and Watson would rather unlearn, but cannot run from, because there are other lives at stake.
While this book makes references to a number of “classic” Holmes cases, the contents of this volume are written not as a collection of stories, but rather as one long continuous tale. The epilogue also mentions the subjects of the next two volumes, hinting that this collection is one long tale of the “true” events of their joined career.
Lovegrove has done a credible job imitating Doyle’s style and characters, while placing them into situations where the paranormal is a reality that can be seductive and dangerous. I really can’t say I’ve read much Lovecraft for myself, though I am aware of his creations from various other sources, from popular movies and other fiction. I believe Lovegrove’s allusions to Lovecraft’s work are just as meticulous as is his borrowing of the Holmesian mythos.
I thought this a very interesting read and would recommend it to fans of Sherlock Holmes, Victorian era-fiction and classic horror tales alike. I award this book four stars and intend to seek out the next work in the series.