Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell.
5 stars out of 5.
Late 1895, and Sherlock Holmes and his faithful companion Dr John Watson are called upon to investigate a missing persons case. On the face of it, this seems like a mystery that Holmes might relish – as the person in question vanished from a locked room – and something to occupy him other than testing the limits of his mind and body.
But this is just the start of an investigation that will draw the pair into contact with a shadowy organisation talked about in whispers and known only as ‘The Order of the Gash’. As more and more people go missing in a similar fashion, the clues point to a sinister asylum in France and to the underworld of London. However, it is an altogether different underworld that Holmes will soon discover – as he finds himself face to face not only with those followers who do the Order’s bidding on Earth, but those who serve it in Hell: the Cenobites…
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
This book has a stunning looking cover, featuring a great artistic design that really stands out, incorporating a classic Holmes silhouette inside the middle of the Lament Configuration Puzzle Box from Hellraiser, really foreshadows what’s to come, drawing your attention in, saying look at me! And, so you know, look at this book you most definitely should! It’s a quality read!
On the back of the book above the actual synopsis there’s a sentence:
“The World’s Greatest Detective Meets Horror’s Most Notorious Villains!”
Now that should garner your attention and whet your interest, if only to question what’s going on and what sort of strange mash-up have I stumbled across???
Now, I’m a huge Holmes fan, I’ve devoured the entire Conan Doyle collection and loved it, also enjoying Anthony Horowitz’s two recent Holmes books and the very recent Warlock Holmes parody by G.S Denning – it had me smiling and smirking throughout at its irreverent comedic retelling. While technically I’d also say I’m a Hellraiser fan – I’ve seen the films and read a couple of the books, I’m not a die-hard fan who knows everything about the series but even I was able to spot some of the easter eggs left by Kane as an homage to the original Hellraiser mythology created by Clive Barker and I’m sure for experts in the series there’s plenty more for you to find.
When combining two very different but much-loved works there’s a chance when you join them together that if not done correctly or with respect to the original works then you could alienate the fans of both. It was only after I finished the book, whilst reading the acknowledgements in the back by Paul Kane that I found out he is a Hellraiser expert with Clive Barker – the Hellraiser creator himself describing Kane as ‘the resident Hellraiser expert’. Now, that gives Kane pedigree with the Hellraiser mythology and part of the book but how would he do with the Sherlock Holmes aspect of the book to? Well, suffice to say he nailed it – yes, while he isn’t in the book that’s my Pinhead reference sneaked into the review!
As I mentioned previously, I’m a Holmes fan and two of the biggest things I look for with a new Sherlock book are, firstly, has the author managed to achieve a similar sort of tone and style to Conan Doyle’s classics. And secondly, the relationship between Holmes and Watson, I’m sure there’ll be people who disagree with me and that’s fine – we all have are own views but for me, the friendship and deep bond between Holmes and Watson has always been the core of the Sherlock Holmes canon, no matter what the mystery attempting to be solved, it’s the duo of Holmes and Watson that the tale revolves around. Kane manages to perfectly convey the friendship between the two whilst paying respect to the original works and giving it his own unique version.
Though, there’ll be some people out there who haven’t heard of Clive Barker, Hellraiser, the ‘Order of the Gash’ and the Cenobites, due to them appearing in the more niche horror media market. I’d guess near enough everyone with even a passing interest in literature and due also to the countless films and TV shows throughout the years ranging from Basil Rathbone in the 1940’s onwards and through to Benedict Cumberbatch in the present day will have heard of Sherlock Holmes.
For fans of either Sherlock Holmes or Hellraiser there’s a great deal within this book for you all to enjoy. And for other would-be readers out there, you don’t need any previous knowledge of either original works to enjoy the book, IT’S THAT DAMN GOOD!
Now, I realise this is a book review and as yet apart from the cover, I haven’t actually mentioned the book itself. Never fear I shall now rectify that!
The Lament Configuration has always been a rather ingenious puzzle box since its creation. Add into the mix, strange and unconnected disappearances, people vanishing from locked rooms without a trace, a lingering smell of Vanilla, mysterious footsteps that abruptly halt and murmurings of a clandestine new power looking to take control and you have all the makings of a perfect Sherlock Holmes mystery. And, the Hellraiser mythology blends perfectly with late Victorian London making a perfect time and setting for the book.
Taking place in 1895 following Holmes return to Baker Street and London. And, after the incident at the Reichenbach Falls. It’s the ideal time for the story to take place, giving Kane ample opportunity to delve into the mystery surrounding the whereabouts of Holmes during the year’s of ‘the great hiatus’ as it’s commonly known by fans of the series. In the Conan Doyle stories when Holmes did return to Watson and sleuthing, he wasn’t the same man as he had been before with slight changes to both his character and personality. Kane uses the Hellraiser mythos to great effect explaining away these changes to Holmes as we learn Kane’s version that after the Reichenbach Falls, Holmes, during his missing years was preparing himself both mentally and physically for something sinister to come.
The mix of Sherlock Holmes and Hellraiser feels completely organic with each aspect complimenting the other to perfection, whilst still feeling like a Holmes story at heart with Watson narrating from the future this darkest of chapters from their adventures together.
Taking in the darkest recesses of Victorian London, a Mental Institute in France and Hell itself this tale tests the boundaries of the friendship between the pair to the core, literally taking them to hell and back. And, when we’re finally introduced to the Cenobites taking the tale from the more normal to the surreal it really feels natural to the story’s progression and without going into detail, what a vividly described and visualised grotesque bunch they are.
The book itself is well written with a descriptive and fast paced style by Kane that really pulls you in, packing a hell – see what I did there!:) of a lot into its 300 page length building from a mysterious more sedate beginning up to the climactic conclusion.
I have to admit that while the cover ‘sold’ the book to me as something I wanted to read I was in-fact slightly concerned when I started the actual book as I couldn’t help but think that on the surface what a strange amalgamation the two worlds would make, delving deeper however and as the story progressed they fitted together surprisingly well and with what in the hands of a lesser talented author could have been a disappointing mash-up ruining two beloved classic franchises, alienating the fans of both in the process. In the hands of Kane turns into a respectful tale embodying elements of the original works that deftly incorporates aspects from both into a delightfully glorious and stunning read making Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell one of the surprise books of the year!
By Jove! It’s highly recommended.