Series: Cthulhu Casebooks
Book Number: 2
Read this book for: Holmes and Watson, supernatural elements, action, alternate POV, US and UK locations, Victorian mystery
Quick Review: A surprisingly fascinating and gripping read, deftly uniting the worlds of Holmes and Lovecraft; well worth a look for Holmes fans.
It is the spring of 1895, and more than a decade of combating eldritch entities has cost Dr John Watson his beloved wife Mary, and nearly broken the health of Sherlock Holmes. Yet the companions do not hesitate when they are called to the infamous Bedlam lunatic asylum, where they find an inmate speaking in R’lyehian, the language of the Old Ones. Moreover, the man is horribly scarred and has no memory of who he is.
The detectives discover that the inmate was once a scientist, a student of Miskatonic University, and one of two survivors of a doomed voyage down the Miskatonic River to capture the semi-mythical shoggoth. Yet how has he ended up in London, without his wits? And when the man is taken from Bedlam by forces beyond normal mortal comprehension, it becomes clear that there is far more to the case than one disturbed Bostonian. It is only by learning what truly happened on that fateful New England voyage that Holmes and Watson will uncover the truth, and learn who is behind the Miskatonic monstrosity…
SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE MISKATONIC MONSTROSITIES is the second in a series known as ‘The Cthulhu Casebooks’ by James Lovegrove, which unites the worlds and monsters of Lovecraft with the Victorian London and characters of Sherlock Holmes. Full disclosure: I am typically wary when approaching these crossovers, but this one surprised me — it was a geuninely enjoyable read and fit remarkably well with the Holmes characters and canon!
This book is the second in the Cthulhu Casebooks series, and I have not read the first novel. However, that did not affect my enjoyment of this book. There were a few points where there were references that I didn’t fully get as they clearly pointed back to the previous book, but everything was fully understandable, even not having read it. This is one you can pick up regardless of having read others in the series. However, you will appreciate Lovegrove’s clever use of the original stories if you are familiar with the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes stories.
As with any Holmes pastiche, the first consideration is how well the author actually captures Holmes. While Lovegrove does visit a darker side of the detective, and a cleverer Watson, both his Holmes and Watson feel quite in character. Watson makes more of a business manager for Holmes than in canon, but his role is completely believeable, and Lovegrove does an excellent job at bringing them to life in an authentic way.
In fact, you can tell Lovegrove is a Holmes fan by the way he uses the stories. One of the things that I absolutely loved about this novel was the way that he explains the origins of the canon stories — usually them dealing with a supernatural entity, then massaged by Watson in a clever way to stay close to the facts but hide the Lovecraftian element. These little explanations are fantastically clever, and made me want to reread the original stories that are referenced just to appreciate better how well he twists the details to fit this universe.
Beyond the novelty of the Lovecraftian element, the plot of this novel is fairly straightforward, and fairly simple for Holmes to solve. In fact, at least a third of the novel doesn’t contain Holmes or Watson at all — it’s given to a journal that relays the background to the mystery that they are working on solving. However, that story is gripping in its own right, so you actually don’t notice much. The additional characters are interesting and engaging, and you do find yourself cheering them on.
SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE MISKATONIC MONSTROSITIES is a surprisingly canon-like addition to the wealth of great Holmes stories that have been published. If you enjoy a supernatural touch to your mysteries, this is a novel you should definitely check out.