REVIEW: Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Dust by James Lovegrove (Lovegrove Holmes #5)

Series: Sherlock Holmes by James Lovegrove

Book Number: 5

Read this book for: Sherlock Holmes, Victorian mystery, literature crossover, globe-trotting story

Quick Review: A fun Holmes adventure that feels a lot like Arthur Conan Doyle’s originals, with lots of twists and turns and featuring another ‘fictional’ character.

***

It is 1884, and when a fellow landlady finds her lodger poisoned, Mrs Hudson turns to Sherlock Holmes. The police suspect the landlady of murder, but Mrs Hudson insists that her friend is innocent. Upon investigating, the companions discover that the lodger, a civil servant recently returned from India, was living in almost complete seclusion, and that his last act was to scrawl a mysterious message on a scrap of paper. The riddles pile up as aged big game hunter Allan Quatermain is spotted at the scene of the crime when Holmes and Watson investigate. The famous man of mind and the legendary man of action will make an unlikely team in a case of corruption, revenge, and what can only be described as magic…

SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE DEVIL’S DUST is a Holmes novel written by James Lovegrove and built to fit in very early in Holmes’ career. It has a very convincing Holmesian feel, with the notable addition of another literary character – Allan Quartermain.

This is the fifth Sherlock Holmes novel that Lovegrove has written, but the only one I have read — you do not need to read any of the others to thoroughly enjoy this one. I do recommend having read the original Holmes stories; Lovegrove does know his canon and makes the occasional reference that is fun to pick out, but any fan of Holmes can pick up this novel without having read the others in this ‘series’. Also to note: this is not part of Lovegrove’s Doyle/Lovecraft crossover series, called “The Cthulhu Casebooks” — you can check out a review for one in that series here.

As far as feeling like Holmes canon, Lovegrove ticks all the boxes in this novel. It has Holmes, Watson and Mrs. Hudson in Baker Street, stunning feats of deduction, cunning plans and villains, and Holmes reasoning his way out of dangerous situations on the fly — as well as some gunplay. Lovegrove has done an excellent job of capturing the spirit of the Victorian London of Holmes’ era, and the combination of the sensational and the logical that Doyle used in his stories.

The most notable departure from this pattern was the inclusion in this novel of Allan Quartermain, a big game hunter and adventurer, most at home in Africa and whose skill in tracking rivals Holmes’ own. Quartermain is a literary character created by H. Rider Haggard in his own series of novels. The combination of the two is refreshing rather than jarring, as Holmes has a worthy individual on whom he can play off his skills. It adds an interesting new dimension to the novel that distinguishes it from traditional Holmes stories, but does not detract from it.

The Holmes of this story is often more adventurous and physically involved in altercations than you might remember of Doyle’s novels, but that makes sense as this takes place early in his career — Holmes is a young man. The plot, however, is pure Holmes: a wrongful accusation, a seemingly impossible poisoning, mysterious figures, and a seemingly supernatural angle that Holmes is seeking to prove has a reasonable explanation.

If you are a Sherlock Holmes fan, SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE DEVIL’S DUST is absolutely worth a look. It feels like Doyle’s Holmes, with a refreshingly interesting twist that perfectly balances the comfort of Holmes with excitement of new elements.

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