REVIEW: Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon by James Lovegrove

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Read this book for: classic Holmes pastiche, Sherlock Holmes, cozy mystery, supernatural elements, classic mystery, whodunnit

Quick Review: A classic and seasonal Holmes story, full of brilliant deductions, solid characterization, and a writing so familiar that you could imagine Conan Doyle penning it himself.


It is 1890, and in the days before Christmas Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson are visited at Baker Street by a new client. Eve Allerthorpe – eldest daughter of a grand but somewhat eccentric Yorkshire-based dynasty – is greatly distressed, as she believes she is being haunted by a demonic Christmas spirit.

Her late mother told her terrifying tales of the sinister Black Thurrick, and Eve is sure that she has seen the creature from her bedroom window. What is more, she has begun to receive mysterious parcels of birch twigs, the Black Thurrick’s calling card…

Eve stands to inherit a fortune if she is sound in mind, but it seems that something – or someone – is threatening her sanity. Holmes and Watson travel to the Allerthorpe family seat at Fellscar Keep to investigate, but soon discover that there is more to the case than at first appeared. There is another spirit haunting the family, and when a member of the household is found dead, the companions realise that no one is beyond suspicion.

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE CHRISTMAS DEMON is a seasonal Holmes novel written by master of Holmes characterization, James Lovegrove.

James Lovegrove has proven several times over that he writes a convincing Holmes and Watson, from his straightforward Holmes pastiche series (the review for THE DEVIL’S DUST is here), to a crossover between the Conan Doyle novels and Lovecraft in the Cthulu Casebooks (like SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE MISKATONIC MONSTROSITIES). This novel is a pure pastiche, in the style of the former series, but is unrelated to it; it can be read completely on its own.

And, true to form, Lovegrove’s Holmes and Watson are spot-on in this novel. He captures Watson’s adoration of — and occasional frustration with — Holmes very well, but also the lovely balancing act of the detective’s character. Holmes here feels very much like the later Conan Doyle stories, with a healthy dash of surprisingly playful whimsy that breaks through the typically sardonic exterior. Fans of the canon stories will find this characterization feels very familiar.

The plot of this novel also will feel perfectly at home with canon fans. It’s slightly more complex than one of the typical short stories, but has shades of THE SPECKLED BAND, RED-HEADED LEAGUE, and THE ADVENTURE OF THE COPPER BEACHES about it. However, it has the advantage, due to length, of being able to weave together a few different plot strands into a more intricate plot, which wraps together very satisfyingly at the end.

Despite the title, this is not an overly Christmas-heavy story, but it does have a touch of the festive spirit about it. The title also suggests a supernatural element, but it is dealt with in typical Holmes fashion. While the title isn’t necessarily completely clear on what you are getting into, the pure enjoyment and quick read will keep you glued to your seat and turning pages to the end.

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE CHRISTMAS DEMON is the perfect story to get you in the mood for the holiday season, especially if you are a Holmes fan.

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