Titan Books, out now
1919 and Holmes and Watson reunite to investigate the severed hand of a man who died two years earlier…
One of the decisions that sometimes makes Titan’s line of Sherlock Holmes novels a little frustrating is that they are not in their own shared continuity, but rather simply refer back to the Conan Doyle canon. While one can understand the logic for this, it does mean that when – as they frequently do in these books – the intrepid investigators find things that are outwith normal experience, it feels as if it’s the first time that they have done so, whereas in fact we’ve had a number of highly enjoyable novels in which this has happened.
Cavan Scott’s The Patchwork Devil is another in this line and works off the basis that at least one classic of fantastic literature does not exist as such within the world of Holmes. You can probably work out which it is from the title and the terrific cover design, but Scott does a good job of only presenting the reader with the evidence that is before Watson’s eyes.
It’s a fast-paced novel, at times very much feeling like a big screen version of the pair’s adventures, with many well-described sequences that place our heroes in the direst peril. Notwithstanding that, Scott achieves something that eludes far too many Doyle pasticheurs, reproducing Watson’s “voice” accurately in the narration; you might quibble about the odd phrase here and there but overall it feels authentic. There may be cars rather than hansom cabs on the streets of London, and the pair may be based out of Watson’s home in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea than 221B Baker Street, but the book has the unmistakable ring of truth in its portrayal of the leads, taking its cues from Doyle rather than Rathbone and Bruce. Scott handles the fantastical side of the story equally well, leading to a very well-portrayed final confrontation between Holmes, Watson and the titular devil.
Verdict: A thrilling tale for Scott’s debut in the Sherlock Holmes world. 8/10