Gaslight Grimoire: Fantastic Tales of Sherlock Holmes Paperback – Apr 1 2009
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About the Author
Jeff Campbell's fiction has appeared in a wide variety of publications including Spinetingler Magazine, Wax Romantic and Challenging Destiny. From time to time his writing can also be heard on radio's Imagination Theater and The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. In addition to writing, he has co-edited the Sherlock Holmes anthologies Curious Incidents 1 and 2 with his good friend Charles Prepolec.
Charles Prepolec has contributed articles and reviews to All Hallows, Sherlock Magazine, Scarlet Street, and Canadian Holmes. An active Sherlockian for more than 20 years with Calgary's The Singular Society of the Baker Street Dozen, he was designated a Master Bootmaker in 2006 by the Canada's national Sherlock Holmes Society.
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The stage is set by the opening tale, "The Lost Boy," by Barbara Hambly. When the Darling children disappear, Mr. Darling consults Sherlock Holmes and Mrs. Darling goes to an old friend who, like her, knew Peter Pan from her youth. At the end of this sad and lovely story, one is left wondering who, exactly, was "The Lost Boy" of the title.
Each of the tales has its own context and viewpoint. Nothing carries across from one to the next except the certainty that things will be not quite what they seem. The sheer nastiness of the villain in Christopher Sequeira's "His Last Arrow" is balanced by the delight of an aged Holmes in his (2nd?) meeting with Count Dracula in Bob Madison's "Red Sunset." Martin Powell's "Sherlock Holmes in the Lost World" gives new meaning to `Non-stop Adventure' with a surprise villain thrown in as an extra. Strictly speaking, Chris Roberson's "Merridew of Abominable Memory' has no supernatural element, but it is a true horror story and it fits right in with the rest of the collection.
As is true with most anthologies, some tales appeal to one taste and some to another. This group seems well mixed, with a variety of approaches and themes. I have mostly commented on those stories that appealed to me. There was, however, one perfectly marvelous tale by Kim Newman called "The Red Planet League" that deserves special attention. It is told by "...your humble narrator - Colonel Sebastian `Basher' Moran ..." and it is worth the reading if only for the delicious villainies of `Basher.' Of the eleven tales included, all are worth reading and several will stand up to re-reading. The only bad feature I found was the quality of the binding on my copy, which seems to induce cover curl.
Reviewed by: Philip K. Jones, October, 2008.
The first story is "The Lost Boy". A combination of Holmes, Peter Pan, and a dash of H.P. Lovecraft. As a story it is "neither fish, nor fowl". It lacks the childishness of Peter Pan, the deductive trill of Holmes, and the terror of old HPL. The adventure is good, but Holmes attracting fairies?
Next is "His Last Arrow". This is a Watson driven story, and pretty good. But, again, the situation is not so much Sherlock Holmes as it is an alternate fantastic view of the detective. In other words, this is not a story about the great detective so much as a fantasy tale. It's still pretty good, and the ending is a surprise.
Now "The Things that Shall Come Upon Them" is a good story. With conflicting views as to weather there is a mechanistic vs. spiritual answer to the problem in on hold past the end of the story. Are they being haunted? Or are they being burgled? This one is good.
"The Finishing Stroke" is an inventive way to use the old "artist as mystic" trope. I liked it a great deal as a story. A pity the art at the start of the story kind of gave away the plot.
"Sherlock Holmes in the Lost World" isn't particularly good. A rehash of the "Lost World" dinosaur's plateau story with Holmes in it. Not much to recommend, either as a story or a Holmes pastiche.
Next is "The Grantchester Grimoire". I liked this one a lot. Again, the art at the start gave too much away, but it was a good, classic gothic tale, where the Detective was doing what we expect him to do. Missing evil books and ghosts at the windows lead to certain dark ends.
When I got to "The Steamship Friesland", I became a bit disgusted. This is not to do with deduction, but just having a ghost tell Holmes what was going on. Seriously, where's the Holmes connection, aside from the fact he's the one the ghost talks to?
"The Entwined" is a tough call. The girl confessing to murders she could not have possible done, but holding certain knowledge of them is a good plot line. The idea is good, but it's more HPL (as in you don't need a great deal of deductive ability) than it is Holmes.
"Merridew of Abominable Memory" takes place with Watson in a respite home, retelling a story of his former days with Holmes to the Doctor. Again, this is not so much a Sherlock Holmes story as it is a glimpse into horror. Holmes does play his usual role, but the point of the story is more about why Watson is hating his memories than the deductions of Holmes.
And then there's "Red Sunset". Holmes, at 100+, in a gangster 1940's situation. Need I say more? And there are vampires. And it's Dracula. And even with these spoilers, you couldn't appreciate the story less than if you read it cold.
The last, "The Red Planet League", is an interesting one. Holmes isn't in it. It's about a rather convoluted plan of Moriarty's (chronicled by Col. Moran) to get back at a fellow astronomer who has disputed his great book on asteroids. It's a good story, and a fantastic plot. It's a sort of anti-Holmes, showing all the meticulateness of a serious plan, just to be done for evil. I thought it rather clever, over all.
The collection as a whole disappointed, but some of the stories are certainly worth reading, if you can get them separate from the rest.
Watson was severely injured, and should have died, while serving with the British Army in Afghanistan. but there seems a cost to Watson from that dark time in his life, and this intersects with the role of a strange Afghani man named Farakhan many years later when Holmes and Watson work a case; a case of what looks like suicide by crossbow. The story ends with a weird and mystical twist.
During World War II, Holmes is in a California nursing home. The damage to British morale would be too severe if he should be killed by the Nazis. Holmes helps a local detective discover how a man can be shot three times, twice in the chest and once in the head, and walk away. It has to do with the importation of fifty pine boxes from Romania, filled with vampires willing to work for the Allies.
In other stories, Holmes and Watson meet up with two famous literary occult detectives, Flaxman Low and Thomas Carnacki. Holmes is very much of a realist; no matter how weird and occult things may seem, there is usually a rational explanation. But he does not totally dismiss un-rational explanations.
I really enjoyed these stories. They are well done, and they are nice and weird without being too weird. Holmes fans will love this book, and so will occult fiction fans.
Some of the stories had no supernatural content at all - "Merridew of Abominable Memory," for example, features a character with an eidetic memory; perhaps the extent of that ability is stretched a little beyond what we normally think of as a photographic memory, but not into the realm of a supernatural power, and the crimes involved are entirely down-to-earth. And the aforementioned final story, "The Red Planet League," is not exactly supernatural either: Moriarty and a rival scientist disagree on an astronomical issue, and Moriarty gets even by using some science fictional ideas, but not fantasy or the supernatural. This is one of the funniest stories in the book, in my opinion. The first story, involving Peter Pan, although OK, is somewhat weak, and would be totally incomprehensible and pointless to anyone who hadn't ever read "Peter Pan." Another story, "His Last Arrow," is a thoughtful story of Dr. Watson's introspection on why he continues to associate with Holmes and what drives his need to write about it; the supernatural nature of it is rather unlikely and would probably bother some Holmes fans, as Holmes does not come out on the good side of Watson's analysis.
One of the things I really enjoyed about the book: the illustrations by Phil Cornell which accompany each story. For many of them, it's not obvious what the illustration means at the beginning of the story, but at the end, you go back and look and say, aha! If only I had interpreted this correctly, I would have seen it coming! But unless you are Holmes, you won't have guessed which details of the illustration are important in advance. Perhaps my favorite story AND my favorite illustration was "Red Sunset."
A suggestion: read this and _The Final Solution: A Story of Detection_ by Michael Chabon (# ISBN-10: 0060777109) together. You'll enjoy them both!