In the London of my Shadow Police novels, ghosts are formed by the collective memories of every citizen, alive or dead. So they can be deceased individuals, or fictional characters that Londoners just feel should be part of their landscape. They’re not quite sentient. My down to earth Metropolitan Police heroes describe their encounters with them as like meeting video game characters, with their repertoire of responses limited.
So when the idea for the title of the third book, Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? came into my head, I knew immediately that in my world, Holmes would not, you’d think, be the most interesting individual my heroes could meet. As those cursed with ‘the Sight’, the ability to see the hidden monsters and magic of London, my coppers would be able to perceive him, but he’d be a mix of every different imagined version of him, incapable of deduction, a homonculus of Holmes. But what if they were to find that being dead? So it’d be a proper murder mystery, starting with an almost existential question: what does it mean to murder a ghost? Detective Inspector Quill and his colleagues also have to ponder whether or not the ‘killing’ has anything to do with the three different productions of Holmes mysteries all being filmed in the capital at the same time (allowing me to poke some fond satire at the modern Holmes industry) and if it’s connected to a series of incidents in which the crimes of the original Conan Doyle stories seem to be being re-enacted at their original locations.
I know that, given the subject matter, a lot of new readers may be joining us with this volume, so it’s been designed as a good jumping-on point, with new arrivals brought swiftly up to speed on the (traumatic) recent histories of our characters and their world. It’s a London in which what is imagined can come to shocking life. My heroes have only their wits and their training to get them through, without mentors, spells or chosen one status. They’re incredibly ill-equipped for this job, but, especially now Holmes is dead, someone has to do it. As they stare at the ‘orgy of evidence’ presented by the host of eccentric clues scattered around Holmes’ mocked-up rooms at the 221b Baker Street Museum, Detective Sergeant Costain can only turn to his colleagues and let out the words they’re all thinking: ‘Mate… the game is afoot‘.
Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? is published by TOR UK on 19th May
Find out more about Cornell at www.paulcornell.com and @paul_cornell
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