Something you may not know about me is that I am a huge Sherlock Holmes nut. I fell in love with the original stories way back in primary school, and have read them so many times I know most of them by heart (remember Data in that one episode of Star Trek? Like that). I’ve also read so many follow-ups by other authors (fanfictions, expanded canon, whatever you want to call it), and I have to say that Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon is one of the very best I’ve ever read.
Book: Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon by James Lovegrove
Read before: No
Ownership: Review copy sent free of charge by Titan Books. All opinions my own.
I was a little nervous going into this, because the supernatural Holmes spinoffs I’ve read tend to be among my least favourite, but I needn’t have worried – this is way more Hound of the Baskervilles than Sherlock Holmes vs Dracula. It’s a tightly-plotted story of family intrigues and suspected ghostly sightings that allows Holmes’ talents to shine, while testing his social skills to the limit. Narrated by Watson, as you’d expect, the mystery rollicks along through red herrings and heightened stakes, and resolves in a really entertaining way. Essentially, it’s a really good Sherlock Holmes novel.
The writing somehow manages to be slightly more modern and accessible than an original Holmes story, while still maintaining the perfect atmosphere and spot-on characterisation. I think readers who are new to Holmes, or perhaps only know him through Sherlock or the Robert Downey Junior films, would enjoy the pacey, easy-to-read flow of the story, while long-term fans of the canon, like me, will find much to enjoy in the nods to earlier stories and pieces of Holmesian lore. There’s a nod to Watson’s perennially shifting war wound that actually made me laugh out loud when I realised what the author was doing!
The pages absolutely fly by, and I found myself fascinated by the mystery. I was a little surprised by the length before I started, as typically Holmes novels are quite terse and short, and this has about 360 pages – but it really doesn’t feel like a long book. I can’t really tell you anything about the plot without giving away the game, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that it’s really good fun. The Christmas focus is entertaining, but not so strong that you wouldn’t be able to read this at any time of year – it plays more on the creepy English Yule folklore side of things (and the extended-family-all-together-and-showing-tensions side of things) than in any particularly festive atmosphere, so you can read it even after Christmas.
Perfect for new readers and old fans alike, Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon is just really brilliant fun. I highly recommend it to those looking for a light-hearted mystery read – five out of five cats!