Tuesday, June 28, 2016

#Horror Review: Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell by Paul Kane

Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell. There is so just much potential in the concept. Handle it right, and you've got yourself a horror/mystery that is destined to become a genre staple. Fumble it at any point, however, and you have two separate camps of fandom ready to critique, condemn, and drag you to . . . well, Hell.

Fortunately, Paul Kane knows his stuff, and what we have here is no mere imaginative lark. Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell is a very carefully constructed story that considers the legacies of both Doyle and Barker, and which not only finds a point at which the two can meet, but one in which that intersection actually adds something to each respective story.

In terms of narrative, this absolutely feels like a Sherlock Holmes story. Kane captures the voice of Dr. Watson exceptionally well, and explains away any irregularities by presenting it as a tale that Watson never intends to publish. Furthermore, he sets it after the incident at Reichenbach Falls, using the Hellraiser mythology to cleverly explain the shift in Holmes' character and personality in those latter tales. He also does some clever work with The Hound of the Baskervilles, taking one of the most horrific Sherlock Holmes tales and casting some doubt upon its casual dismissal of the supernatural.

As far as Hellraiser is concerned, reading this is like an epic Easter Egg hunt. Kane touches upon all aspects of the extended mythology, including details from the original Hellbound Heart tale; the Hellraiser films; Barbie Wilde's tales of Sister Cilice in Voices of the Damned; and even several tales from the Hellbound Hearts anthology. There are some very nice parallels to the original story of the Cotton family; some fantastic background on the Lemarchand family and the Lament Configuration puzzle box; a gloriously grotesque band of Cenobites; and a vivid exploration of Hell that fits in very well with last year's Scarlet Gospels.

In bringing the two worlds together, Kane remains true to the feel and the style of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, but drags the story into darker, more decadent corners of the Victorian world. There is torture aplenty in this tale, both of the human and the Cenobite variety, and a BDSM-themed brothel that really allows him to play with (and foreshadow) the dark eroticism of Baker's sadomasochistic fantasies. Ultimately, however, it's the relationship between Holmes and Watson that makes the story work, testing the deepest, darkest bounds of friendship, and exploring the absolute darkest chapter in their shared story.

If you do choose to open the cover of Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell, be forewarned that once you're well-and-truly hooked, the pages (like the puzzle box) do tend to turn themselves.

Paperback, 384 pages
Expected publication: July 12th 2016 by Solaris

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

4 comments:

  1. I'm undecided about this one - even though I like that you say he's captured Watson's voice. Need to think about it a little more. I love the original Sherlock stories and so I tend to go into any books based on the characters in a really critical frame of mind! Still, the Watson voice thing has me thinking... I wouldn't mind revisiting Watson.
    Lynn :D

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    1. I'll admit, I entered into it as more of a Hellraiser fan than a Holmes fan, but it still felt like a Doyle story to me.

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  2. I saw you 5-star this one on Goodreads. The book caught my eye earlier this month but I took a pass because I already have too many books on my plate this summer, but maybe I'll have to reconsider :)

    ~Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

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    1. I went into it with high hopes, and it still paid off. Love when that happens. :)

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