Hands up who likes Sherlock Holmes? If your hand is raised then you’re in for a real treat with this fantastic tribute anthology. It’s a series of tales featuring our favourite cocaine addict and his faithful sidekick, but with an added layer of grotesque Gothicy goodness.
In these stories we meet Wendigos and zombies, werewolves and ghouls. Aleister Crowley skulks in the shadows, along with those sinister stalwarts of Victoriana: spiritualists, freemasons, mediums, occultists, street urchins and ne’er do well aristocrats.
Given free reign to explore the dark side of the Holmes mythos the authors have excelled; re-working familiar tales such as Hound of the Baskervilles while taking us into fresh territories too. We jump back and forward in time and across continents, whilst the mists swirl and part to reveal a succession of meticulously crafted plots and characters.
One of the tales in particular, The Hand Delivered Letter by Simon K. Unsworth, made me want to leap from my seat and applaud (though I was on a plane at the time and the seatbelt signs were on). It’s written in the form of a letter to Holmes from his nemesis Moriaty, in which he reveals how he has survived their infamous clash at the Reichenbach Falls, before going on to detail his outrageously sinister plan for revenge. It’s a real spinetingler, keeping you hooked, like a denizen of an opium den, until the final nerve-jangling sentence.
But what’s evident in all these fine stories is the passion and love that the authors have for the characters we’ve inherited from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It’s a worthy tribute and I personally didn’t find a weak story in the whole anthology.
I believe there’s at least one other ‘Gaslight’ anthology in a similar vein, and while I need a break from H&W after gluttonously devouring these stories, I’ll certainly return to seek out the next one. Should you buy it? Well, if you’re partial to the deerstalker, pipe and nefarious backstreets of Victorian London, then it’s elementary my dears.
Five Black Stars
Book Review: Gaslight Grotesque – Editers J.R. Campbell, Charles Prepolec