Titan Books, out now
The tragic death of a young man is the catalyst for Holmes and Watson to become involved in a prelude for war…
James Lovegrove’s second contribution to the Sherlock Holmes canon (click here to read our review of his first, The Stuff of Nightmares) sees Holmes and Watson now quite elderly, but still perfectly capable of getting themselves into – and out of – scrapes which people half their age might have trouble with. Although Lovegrove makes a point of having Watson comment on their advancing years, there is a little bit of the immortal about them – particularly in the sequences towards the end.
That’s not necessarily a negative: no one really wants to read a tale about a frail Holmes whose faculties have deserted him (or at least, not one that’s part of a standard Holmes range – such stories have been told, and some of them are quite poignant), so it’s right that the pair are able to fend for themselves as necessary, particularly since they are ranged against people of a similar sort of age.
Lovegrove knows the characters well, and his dialogue for them is spot-on – to the extent that I could hear the current audio Holmes/Watson, Nick Briggs and Richard Earl, saying the lines at times. He’s also caught Watson’s narrative style, something which is not always right in these pastiches: Watson isn’t a bumbler, he’s a smart man, who has spent a lot of his life around a very smart man, but there are still going to be times when Holmes’ misdirections will confuse him. (Equally, the hoary old chestnut of Watson not recognising Holmes in disguise rears its head, along with the equally old ‘pull the facial hair off the man who really has some’ gag – can we have a moratorium on these for a bit please?)
In the years after the Great War, there were a lot of conspiracy theories about the causes of the conflict, and Saint author Leslie Charteris uses one that reappears here in some of his most successful novels about Simon Templar. It’s something that was refuted, but in a world where Nayland Smith’s adventures are real (a nice little touch by the author), maybe the Gods of War worked differently?
It doesn’t really matter in the long run: Lovegrove has given us another fast-paced adventure which rips Holmes and Watson out of their comfort zone into a more mechanical age but never loses sight of their essential qualities.
Verdict: Another strong contribution to the Holmes saga. 8/10