Sherlock Holmes: The Stuff of Nightmares, by James Lovegrove

Review published on October 7, 2013.Reviewed by Marleen Kennedy

Nudge Reviewer Rating:

When Dr. Watson returns to London by train he finds himself caught up in a bombing at Waterloo station. After giving what attention he can to those injured in the attack he wastes no time in getting to 221B Baker Street and his friend Sherlock Holmes.

This is the third in a series of bombings which hold London and its inhabitants in a scary hold, with theories about the bombers and their reasons getting more hysterical by the day.

But the bombings are not the only strange phenomena in London at the time. A strange creature, about eight feet tall, with enormous strength and a scary arsenal of weapons has taken on London’s underworld. He interrupts misdeeds and incapacitates the villains although he never kills his opponents. Only known by the name Baron Cauchemar, many consider this man a myth, yet Sherlock Holmes is convinced that the Baron may be the key that will lead to unlocking the identity of those behind the bombings. And although both his brother, Mycroft and Dr. Watson have their doubts, he is determined to conduct his investigation along those lines.

What follows is an investigation that will bring our two heroes face to face with pure evil. Confronting mortal danger more than once Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson have not only men’s evil to contend with, but also technological advances beyond their wildest imaginations. With the future of the British Empire at stake, Holmes and Watson have to embrace an unlikely ally if there are going to prevent disaster.

I have to say that I’m greatly enjoying this series of newly written Sherlock Holmes adventures. While the stories in this series are close enough to the originals to keep fans of Arthur Conan Doyle happy, they also provide us with story lines that go beyond what he might have been able to conceive of in his days.

The Stuff of Nightmares is an intriguing, well plotted and fast paced mystery, just as you would expect from a Sherlock Holmes story. What makes this book that little bit more special is the fact that it also contains elements that strongly remind me of Steam-Punk. It was fun to see Watson immediately think of the supernatural whenever he encounters something he doesn’t understand while Holmes, even when he has no better idea what exactly he is dealing with than his partner does, insists that there has to be a logical explanation.

Apart from the steam-punkish elements, this is exactly what you would expect from a Sherlock Holmes story. We are given a dire threat, no obvious clues, quite a bit of misdirection and Holmes talking in riddles, just as he would in one of the traditional stories. We encounter familiar names from the Sherlock Holmes stories: the Baker Street Irregulars, Professor Moriarty, Mycroft Holmes, Inspector Lestrade, they all make an appearance and live up to their established reputation. While Sherlock Holmes purists may well find one or more things to object to in this book, I found great pleasure in the non-traditional elements of this story.

James Lovegrove is an established and successful author of Science Fiction books and his writing experience shines through in this book. The story is smooth, the plot well developed and the mystery intriguing enough to keep the reader guessing until the author, or Sherlock Holmes, is ready to enlighten them. The author’s background is clear though when you read the technological descriptions in this book; the machines and contraptions are described in such detail that it is easy to visualise them.

Overall I would call this a very welcome addition to the Sherlock Holmes stories that we know and love. Filled with danger, action and mystery, this is a book that is hard to put down once started. If Mr. Lovegrove ever decides to write another Sherlock Holmes story I will definitely read it.

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