Warlock Holmes – A Study in Brimstone by G.S. Denning
Sherlock Holmes is an unparalleled genius who uses the gift of deduction and reason to solve the most vexing of crimes.
Warlock Holmes, however, is an idiot. A good man, perhaps; a font of arcane power, certainly. But he’s brilliantly dim. Frankly, he couldn’t deduce his way out of a paper bag. The only thing he has really got going for him are the might of a thousand demons and his stalwart flatmate. Thankfully, Dr. Watson is always there to aid him through the treacherous shoals of Victorian propriety… and save him from a gruesome death every now and again.
An imaginative, irreverent and addictive reimagining of the world’s favourite detective, Warlock Holmes retains the charm, tone and feel of the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle while finally giving the flat at 221b Baker Street what it’s been missing for all these years: an alchemy table.
Reimagining six stories, this riotous mash-up is a glorious new take on the ever-popular Sherlock Holmes myth, featuring the vampire Inspector Vladislav Lestrade, the ogre Inspector Torg Grogsson, and Dr. Watson, the true detective at 221b. And Sherlock. A warlock
I’m a huge fan a Sherlock Holmes. I always have been. From the original source texts through all the various adaptations for stage and screen. I particularly enjoy when a writer does something a bit different to anything I’ve seen before. The new novel Warlock Holmes – A Study in Brimstone by G S Denning, is a perfect example of this phenomena. In this incarnation, Holmes is far more interested in battling the occult and it’s Dr John Watson who finds himself taking on the lion’s share of the sleuthing. Needless to say Warlock’s specialist knowledge inevitably does come in handy, as every case seems to involve the dark arts in one form or another.
The novel collects together the intrepid duo’s first six cases – (1) A Study in Brimstone (2) The Adventure of the Resident Sacrifice (3) The Case of the Cardboard… Case (4) The Adventure of the Yellow Bastard (5) The Adventure of the _eckled _and (6) Charles Augustus Milverton: Soulbinder. I’d imagine to the seasoned Sherlock Holmes aficionados amongst you, some/all of these titles will feel vaguely familiar.
At the heart of this book is the relationship between Holmes and Watson. In this instance of the famous sleuths, the usual dynamic has been turned squarely on its head. Watson is the observer, the sharp intellect who notes the smallest detail. Holmes is quite the reverse. He is so wrapped up in the arcane he is blissfully ignorant of almost everything else. He still maintains that classic aloofness, that slightly distracted air, that I’ve come to expect but it is for entirely new reasons. Watson is entirely unaware of anything like alchemy or magic until a chance meeting finds him lodging with Holmes. Watching how the relationship develops between the two is one of the novel’s many highlights. Whether by chance or design, the two men just about manage to make the perfect consulting detective.
On a not entirely unrelated side note, my surname is actually Holmes. It does a man good to know that even his fictional ancestors are just as dim-witted as he is.
The secondary characters are great fun as well. Holmes and Watson are assisted by Vladislav Lestrade and Torg Grogsson, a vampire and the ogre respectively. Both manage to bring their own unique sensibility to what it means being a detective in Her Majesty’s Constabulary. I can also promise you that the Baker Street Irregulars are just a little bit more irregular than anything you may have previously experienced. To round things off, there are some classic villains and the odd arch-nemesis or two. Once again Denning has skewed things just enough to make things interesting. Moriarty is definitely around but not quite in the form you’re likely to be familiar with.
I’ll be honest, I’m a sucker when it comes to the nonsensical. I’m firmly of the belief that creating genuinely amusing fantasy fiction is the darkest of arts. G S Denning pulls off this tricky task with aplomb. I rather suspect much of this is down to perfectly capturing the inherent pompousness of the British character. I can totally confirm this to be entirely accurate, I’m a Brit and I know we can be hugely pompous with only a split seconds notice.
The way Holmes and Watson riff off one another is just great. There are also some marvellously daft discussions. I ask you, how you could not rejoice in a novel that manages to determine just the right amount of tea and crumpets to include in the prose? I do so enjoy a good crumpet *stares wistfully at an empty crumpet plate*.
This first collection of Warlock Holmes tales is an absolute joy. The plots are delightfully silly and the characters are great fun. I found myself instantly wrapped up in the thrill of each new case while maintaining, what I can only assume is, a gleefully stupid grin on my face for the entire duration. The best news is that the end of the book confirms that Warlock Holmes and co will return again next year. I’m waiting impatiently already for The Battle of Baskerville Hall.
Warlock Holmes – A Study in Brimstone is published by Titan Books and is from May 27th. Highly recommended