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.
Edited by J R Campbell and Charles Prepolec
Take a mixture of Sherlock Holmes stories; add a pinch of HP Lovecraft or other horror master; chill, and you have this book!
“The Lost Boy” by Barbara Hamley: Told through the narration of a dying Mary Watson, this story brings the dream world together with reality. In that dream world, Peter Pan is seeking the great detective to clear his name on kidnapping charges.
There is a haunting beauty to this story, and I cannot give it less than five stars out of five!
“His Last Arrow” by Cristopher Sequeira: This story has a dark tone and a twist that I refuse to even allude to. With Holmes temporarily out when Gregson calls, Doctor Watson, recently returned to Baker Street with the failure of his marriage steps in. A man has been killed by an arrow from a crossbow, apparently self-inflicted. A mysterious photo lies on the floor. Labeled: “The Shaman asks for mercy on his Death-bed.”
When Holmes arrives, a stranger named Faroukhan has already been there seeking him. And the rest of this five stars out of five story you must read for yourself! It is wonderful, if twisted!
“The Things that Shall Come upon Them” by Barbara Roden: When strange things occur in Lufford Abbey, Warwickshire, Holmes finds himself contacted by the lady of the house, Mrs. John Fitzgerald to solve the problem. However, her husband has contacted Flaxman Low, as he believes the problem to be supernatural.
Basically they have a haunted room. Their house was once owned by a man named Julian Karsewell, a student of the black arts who died when a stone from a church tower fell on his head.
Now begins the battle of science versus the paranormal, as two widely differing detectives take their own personal views of the problem. This story is excellent, and worth five stars out of five!
“The Finishing Stroke” by MJ Elliot: People who buy the art of a certain Algernon Redfern dies under mysterious circumstances, one just after a visit from Holmes and Watson. Holmes has to think way outside the box for this adventure. How can art kill?
The story is well written and well paced. I will give it the five stars out of five it deserves.
“Sherlock Holmes in the Lost World” by Martin Powell: Holmes and Watson are bade by the Prime Minister himself to undertake the case of the missing Professor George Challenger. Mr. Powell has made a master stroke by combining two of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s creations into one story. Accompanied by Challenger’s daughter, herself a Professor; they set of for the Lost World.
This is nothing short of literature magic, and worth five stars out of five!
“The Grantchester Grimoire” by Chico Kidd & Rick Kennett: Grantchester Abbey has a “chained library” of occult material. When the owner falls into a coma inside the library and remains comatose; his wife calls in Sherlock Holmes. A manuscript from the library is missing, assumed stolen. Holmes doesn’t like it when Carnacki the Ghost Finder also becomes involved. But events quickly move beyond Holmes’ comfort zone and more into that of Carnacki.
The authors have blended the world of Holmes very well with the world of Carnacki. Both experts are needed to solve the puzzle. This makes for a great five stars out of five story!
“The Steamship Friesland” by Peter Calamari: The Holmes aficionados will recognize the title as one of the unwritten cases Walton alludes to in the cannon. A ghostly presence alerts Holmes to things about the disappearance of this vessel that the papers cannot, for they do not know.
The blend of the ghostly into the rational is subtlety done. The readers of the Holmes Cannon will quickly remember the name of the ghost and the circumstances of his death when the name is revealed. This is definitely five stars out of five writing!
“The Entwined” by JR Campbell: This is out and away my favorite story in this book. A woman in a insane asylum confesses to the murders of several men. The snag is that she was locked up tight when these took place, often at great distances from the asylum. Yet she has the details correct.
She begins to speak of her “other” and her “rider” and tells of a world under a red sun where she is a fearsome creature. This mixture of fantasy, horror, and Holmes is a cocktail Holmes fans will find intoxicating! A must read five out of five stars story!
“Merridew of Abominable Memory” by Chris Roberson: Again, those knowledgeable of the Holmes Cannon will recognize another case Watson alluded to but did not write. An elderly Watson is convalescing in a sanatorium when he begins to reminisce about a case he had with Holmes long ago.
A serial murderer known as “The Dissembler” is leaving gory bodies around London. The work is certainly not that of Jack the Ripper. The dead are servants of the rich and powerful, and all have been replaced by an American. The man appears somewhat addled, but Holmes recognizes him as a mentalist he met years before in America known as Merridew.
Could you imagine the horror behind never being able to forget? This is the talent of Merridew, useful to a daring criminal, and ultimately the bane of Merridew’s existence. I happily give this story five stars out of five! Best in the book, I believe!
“Red Sunset” by Bob Madison: Written Sam Spade style, this story teams a hard-boiled detective with a century old Sherlock Holmes. A rash of disappearances in Santa Monica leads Holmes to suspect that perhaps Van Helsing wasn’t as successful as he reported in the case of Count Dracula.
I loved the mix of hard-boiled and Holmes like a great chef’s amuse-bouche. Bob Madison, I salute you, Sir, with five stars out of five.
“The Red Planet League” by Kim Newman: This is actually a Professor Moriarty tale written by Colonel Sebaistan Moran. Sir Nevil Aiery Stent takes great joy in tearing Professor Moriarty’s great work, The Dynamics of an Asteroid, apart in a public forum, right in Moriarty’s face. Of course the Professor isn’t going to take this lying down. There is a touch of the diabolical worthy of Fu Manchu in the Professor’s revenge.
And so we end this book with one more five stars out of five story. This is a fantastic collection the pickiest fan would find to be at the least interesting!
Quoth the Raven…
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.