Imagine Sherlock Holmes investigating Cthulhu. How would the great fighter for rationality and enlightenment react to a dark force following no logic but terror and insanity? What could go wrong…?
Sometime in the early 2000s, the writers Michael Reaves and John Pelan did just that. They assembled 18 mystery, fantasy and sci-fi writers and ordered them to re-imagine Holmes in a world where the Ancient Ones are lurking underneath the oceans.
Cracking open the book, what becomes clear very quickly is that many of these stories are not really detective stories in the spirit of Doyle’s detective stories. The riddles are less clever; the solutions shrouded in darkness. All in all, the Lovecraftian horror outweighs the demonstration of the enlightened victorian mindset.
But one shouldn’t expect modern writers of mistery and sci-fi to beat Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at his own game. If you want real Holmes pastiches making a serious attempt at that, you should read Horowitz.
These stories are still worth your attention, however. They offer a wide range of horror tropes combined with proper Holmesian elements that manage to stir up the Victorian settledness that we breath in with every page of the original stories. Another plus is that fringe characters from the Holmesverse get their moment to shine. We get stories featuring Irene Adler, Sebastian Moran and James Moriarty; we get stories exploring what actually happened to Watson in Afghanistan etc. These stories often take place in different parts of the globe, spreading the HPL terror everywhere. It’s a blast!
All in all, it’s an entertaining volume, honoring the beloved cosmos of Doyle’s victorian detective tales. As with all such collections, there are stronger ones and weaker ones, of course. Neil Gaiman’s A Study in Emerald ranks among the best of them, due to a certain thing that I won’t allude to in more detail lest I give it away.
Bottom Line: If you’re a Holmes fan, a nice play with your favorite characters, although the difference to the original remains clear. If you’re a Lovecraft fan, you’ll definitely like this. If you’re a Holmes AND Lovecraft fan, you MUST read this. You’ll probably have already.
Update: I’ve since read some other reviews and had to adapt my view a little. The Lovecraftian element is handled not very subtly in many of the stories and at times there’s more adventure than sinister mood. Several of the stories are actually quite bad. Still, an in all, I’d say it was a fun reading experience.