Book Review: Warlock Holmes (Book 2) – The Hell-Hound of the Baskervilles by G. S. Denning

Publisher:  Titan Books

Publication date:  16th May 2017

Never on this earthly plane would I have thought I could encounter what I have just experienced at 221B Baker Street.  But the game is afoot a hoot, and it is most satisfyingly odd.

As the great fictional detective is reduced to a rotting corpse with the ethereal ability to solve crime, a carnival of reinvented Conan Doyle short stories are combined to propel us toward a sorcerous crusade. Rather than provide a quick resolution to a problem, when Warlock Holmes’ unique talent manifests itself it generally makes matters much worse before they get better.

Unresponsive and ‘unofficially’ deceased Holmes is not causing any further trouble, other than reeking out his rooms. Watson is keen to conceal his friend’s demise for fear of eviction or conviction, as the bachelors are in arrears for their rent which is payable to Mrs Hudson. The distressed doctor goes to great lengths to mask the foul odour before she twigs, as Mrs Hudson appears to be channelling a cockney serving wench and would have absolutely no problem chasing her money as forcibly as any bailiff.

The deceitful dilemma has hilarious consequences for Watson and begs the questions: has Holmes suffered at the hand of one of his own experiments? Perhaps Moriarty finally got his revenge? Nope. The answer is a little closer to home.

Holmes ‘recuperates’ during the contorted serialised stories that follow and the bare bones from these five existing Sherlock escapades are cultivated into a brute of a crescendo, The Hell-Hound of the Baskervilles.

I embraced this Sherlock surrealism and was overjoyed to see the Holmes and Watson bond live on, even if conventional attributes have stepped aside to make way for demonology, a herd of bearded men on tricycles, and a talking horse (no, it’s not Mr Ed). The only apparent constant to tackling these bands of irregular fiends and the seemingly immortal Moriarty is Doctor Watson’s solution to pretty much everything – his trusty Webley Revolver. 

Anyone with a flamboyant imagination and a pinch of eccentricity would enjoy this chorus of calamity without boundaries. We mere mortals can only observe at the awe that is, Warlock Holmes.

Note: This is the second book in the series starring ‘Warlock Holmes’. Although I have not read the first (A Study in Brimstone) it’s pretty obvious it didn’t affect my enjoyment of this title. 🙂

Rating:  4/5

(My gratitude to the publisher, Titan Books and Philippa Ward, for providing a copy of this title. It was my pleasure to read it and provide this unbiased review.)

The game’s afoot once more as Holmes and Watson face off against Moriarty’s gang, the Pinkertons, flesh-eating horses, a parliament of imps, boredom, Surrey, a disappointing butler demon, a succubus, a wicked lord, an overly-Canadian lord, a tricycle-fight to the death and the dreaded Pumpcrow. Oh, and a hell-hound, one assumes.

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G.S. Denning was born in Seattle, Washington. He has published articles for games company Wizards of the Coast, worked as an editor, written a video-game script for Nintendo, and written and performed shows at the Epcot Center, Walt Disney World. With a background in improv, Gabe has performed with Ryan Stiles and Wayne Brady, and he currently has a play running in Seattle. He now lives in Las Vegas with his wife and two children.

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Book Review: A Betrayal in Blood, by Mark A. Latham #SherlockHolmes

Publisher:  Titan Books

Publication date:  28th March 2017

Our infatuation for a damned fine mystery often stirs a morbid curiosity of the unknown and encourages many of us to channel our inner detective. We may not rival the greats, particularly when the competition is none other than Sherlock Holmes, but A Betrayal in Blood reinvents a cryptic nemesis to indulge our every whim.

In this embittered tale a familiar legend places innocent lives in jeopardy. Set amid Victorian society, an asylum, and the grandeur of a Transylvanian castle, Doctor Watson narrates the case of the ‘Dracula papers’ as the determined duo investigate the impact of vampirism, allegedly practised by a deceased reclusive nobleman.

How I love it when sinister plots are afoot aiming to foil our intrepid private detectives, especially when those responsible are not to be meddled with. Professor Abraham Van Helsing is one such character. Exuding confidence in both his intelligence and influence, The Dutchman defends his posse’s intervention to stop Dracula (literally dead in his tracks) after an unfortunate young woman could not escape the Count’s wicked motives. He may have led the hunt for the monster responsible but was subsequently accused of murder.

Certain irregularities regarding the murders will rise, along with reports of the undead, causing Sherlock to continue where Scotland Yard’s official involvement ceased as the whole affair remains fantastical. In an unusual spin, a new case is born combining the tale of Count Dracula and the authenticity of classic Sherlock Holmes. Harnessing the keen perception of the great man himself complete with his faithful colleague at his side, they nip at the heels of shifty witnesses until the facts are unveiled and the wicked are held accountable.

I could tell from the spring in his step and that familiar gleam in his eye that he had the scent of villainy, and would stop at nothing until the wrongdoer was brought to justice.

Unreliable evidence and inconsistent testimony construct a riddle that features timeless fictional celebrities fuelled by fear and a quest for the truth. A worthy and thoroughly obliging addition to the Sherlock archives. 

[On a totally random note, by reading this I’ve learned the name ‘Wendy’ (a fleeting character appearance, and of course my own) appeared before JM Barrie’s Peter Pan was published. I didn’t know that, and I only mention it as I’d never heard the name being used in a story around this period before. End of randomness.]

 Rating:  4/5

(I received a copy of this title from the publisher and it is my pleasure to provide an unbiased review.)

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

It is 1894, and the news of a Transylvanian nobleman s death at the hands of a certain Professor Van Helsing is the talk of London. Unsatisfied at the acquittal of the professor, Mycroft Holmes asks Sherlock to investigate what truly led to the deaths of Lucy Westenra and the mysterious aristocrat. The newspapers are full of inconsistencies and wild supernatural theories, and as Holmes digs deeper, he suspects that those hailed as heroes are not what they seem.

The clues point to an innocent man framed and murdered for crimes he did not commit, and Holmes and Watson find themselves targeted at every turn, as what began as a quest to clear one man s name reveals a conspiracy that draws them to the mountains of Transylvania and the infamous Castle Dracula.

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(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Mark Latham is an author, editor and games designer with a passion for nineteenth century history, from Staffordshire, UK. Formerly the editor of Games Workshop’s White Dwarf magazine and head of Warhammer 40,000, Latham is now a writer of novels, short stories, and tabletop games, such as Legends of the Old West, and Waterloo. Latham is published in Further Encounters of Sherlock Holmes.

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Book Review: Mrs Hudson and the Spirits’ Curse (A Sherlock Holmes & Mrs Hudson Mystery Book 1), by Martin Davies

Publisher:   Canelo   |   Publication date:   13th July 2015

Mrs Hudson and the Spirits CUrse COVER

As I like the original Sherlock Holmes’ stories just as they are, I generally avoid books that invite this famous character on an uncomfortable journey and then fail to arrive somewhere different. Well, I was intrigued by the premise of this story and so I happily accepted a review request.

First and foremost this book kept me thoroughly entertained, although I will admit to being slightly irked when I discovered how the great man was being portrayed. Brace yourself, as he is reduced to a diluted version of himself while he’s charged with unravelling a puzzle of the fateful variety, and it’s Sherlock’s housekeeper and young maid who are the true ‘brains’ of Baker Street.

We’re talking Mrs Hudson, the no messing domestic who the reader will discover has a proven intelligence sharper than Sherlock, at least in this series. The humble sidekick is not Dr Watson, although he’s in regular attendance, but a young orphan girl by the name of Flotsam, or Flottie as we come to know her. Hers is the voice that will narrate their escapades, yet Watson may wish to publish a ‘tailored’ version of events after the case is solved.

Mrs Hudson has taken Flottie under her wing and offers moral supervision (while learning when to bend the odd rule), tuition into the sciences, and how to tackle a mean looking laundry pile. Their adventure begins one evening when a late evening call to Baker Street results in a menacing letter and curious artefact begging an audience with Holmes. A Mr Nathanial Moran is in dire need of assistance, as he has been cursed by Sumatran villagers following a recent voyage for his business dealings and only one man and his faithful Watson could be considered for the job.

Holmes and Watson publicly attempt to keep Moran and his business associates out of harm’s way until they can discover the source of the deadly threat that has already afflicted some of Moran’s colleagues. Privately, Mrs Hudson embarks on a discreet enquiry of her own and manages to stay one step ahead of the gentlemen duo. Both quests are riddled with despicable deeds and are further hindered by Fogarty, a brutish butler with a vengeful streak, who has it in for Flottie as their paths have regrettably crossed before. I am in no doubt that he is competing for the ‘Moriarty’ award for cruelty.

The mystery unfolds in a true ‘chip away at the little details and all will be revealed’ method, without officially undermining Sherlock’s existing reputation. No, Mrs Hudson is in a league of her own and her investigation is conducted by applying the most appropriate etiquette possible. But, I can’t say whether her morbid fascination for the truth encouraged her to deliberately take chances with young Flottie’s wellbeing. The young ‘un was sent on investigative errands for the housekeeper, which provided many a dangerous lesson at times.  Never fear, the remedy for shock is frequently prescribed from a decanter, which leaves me wondering how the girl wasn’t incapacitated for the duration of the case!

Well, despite my initial feelings I soon warmed to the idea that the domestic help are the driving force of 221b Baker Street, as it’s strangely very convincing. While the original stories will always hold a special place in my heart I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with this alternative version of Mrs Hudson – daringly more connected than her employers, with an astute judgement that only a housekeeper of this calibre could possess, this role-reversal with a twist is most certainly worthy of a read.

Rating: 4/5

(My thanks to Sarah Harrison PR and Ana McLaughlin for the review copy.)

What if Baker Street’s most gifted resident wasn’t called Sherlock Holmes?

A rollicking new take on Sherlock Holmes: the Kindle #1 bestselling classic crime Mrs Hudson & the Spirits’ Curse, the first Holmes & Hudson Mystery.

An evil stalks London, blown in from the tropics. Stories of cursed giant rats and malign spirits haunt the garrets of Limehouse. A group of merchants are, one by one, dying: murdered, somehow.

The elementary choice to investigate these mysterious deaths is, of course, Holmes and Dr Watson. Yet instead of deduction, it will be the unique gifts of their housekeeper, Mrs Hudson and her orphaned assistant Flotsam that will be needed to solve the case. Can she do it all under the nose of Sherlock himself?

From the coal fire at 221B Baker Street to the smog of Whitechapel and the jungles of Sumatra, from snake bites in grand hotels to midnight carriage chases at the docks, it’s time for Mrs Hudson to step out of the shadows. Playfully breaking with convention, Martin Davies brings a fresh twist to classic Victorian mystery.

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The series line up so far…

Mrs Hudson Series

Martin Davies grew up in north-west England. All his writing is done in cafes, on buses or on trains, and all his first drafts are written in longhand. He has travelled widely, including in the Middle East, India and Sicily. In addition to the Holmes & Hudson Mysteries, he is the author of four other novels, including The Conjurer’s Bird, which sold over 150,000 copies and was selected for the Richard & Judy Book Club and Havana Sleeping, which was shortlisted for the 2015 CWA Historical Dagger award. He works as a consultant in the broadcasting industry.

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