James Lovegrove – Sherlock Holmes and the Shadwell Shadows

This popped up as a recommendation on Amazon, and it looked interesting enough to order for my Kindle.

It’s the first in a planned trilogy of slightly[1] different Sherlock Holmes stories billed as The Cthulhu Casebooks, which should give you a bit of a hint as to what it’s about. It starts with the more or less traditional bit of the author getting hold of what appear to be original manuscripts (or in this case typescripts) of previously unknown works by John H Watson (insert standard note about Conan Doyle being the editor, etc etc[2]). But these documents are a wee bit different. Apparently written by a  much older Watson, they reveal for the first time the truth about how Watson was injured in Afghanistan, how he and Holmes really met, and much much more. Lovegrove expresses the traditional doubts about the authenticity of the documents – are they really the work of Watson, or could they be a modern hoax carefully created using paper of the appropriate age? The problem for the reader is that Lovegrove admits to have made minor edits to the text – mostly to clear up Watson’s notorious issues with getting dates wrong, but can we be sure he hasn’t made other alterations? I certainly spotted what seem to be a few anachronisms – a reference to “liberal reformers” in connection with prisons, an expression that doesn’t sounds particularly 1880s, or even 1920s (when Watson allegedly typed the documents) to me. And referring to the Metropolitan Police as “the Met” doesn’t sound at all right. Signs of confused editing or of a more modern origin of the documents? Hmmmm

Anyway, if we accept this document at face value, it demolishes much of what we know, or thought we knew about Holmes. While he did indeed intend to set up as a the world’s first consulting detective, this was swept aside when he and Watson found themselves becoming involved in a very dark mystery, which leads them to researching some very disturbing documents held in the really secret bit of the British Museum Library. Readers familiar with the secrets revealed by Lovegrove’s distant relation H P Lovecraft will find this disturbingly familiar.

As their investigation into some mysterious (and nasty) deaths leads them closer to the horrible truth about what’s going on, things get personal when Sherlock’s brother Mycroft and Inspector Gregson are captured by minions of yes, you guessed it, Professor Moriarty, who we learn to be something much worse than the Napoleon of Crime of the previously published stories, with a Very Sinister Plan.

Minor quibbles about editorial anachronisms aside[3], this is a fascinating beginning to a series of revelations about one of the best-known figures of the late 19th century.

Or, to put it another way: great fun – if you like a good bit of Sherlock Holmes, it’s worth a read. If you like a bit of H P Lovecraft, it’s also worth a look. And if you like both, you really should give it a try. I’m looking forward to the next one already.

[1] Possible understatement
[2] I should probably point out that I’m playing along with the Sherlockian game for the purposes of this post
[3] And perhaps I’m mistaken about those

One thought on “James Lovegrove – Sherlock Holmes and the Shadwell Shadows

  1. Pingback: G S Denning – Warlock Holmes: A Study in Brimstone | Losing it

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