CM . . .
. Volume XV Number 10. . . .January 9, 2009
Gaslight Grimoire: Fantastic Tales of Sherlock Holmes.
J. R. Campbell & Charles Prepolec, eds.
Calgary, AB: EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2008.
317 pp., pbk., $16.95.
Holmes, Sherlock (Fictitious character)-Fiction.
Detective and mystery stories, Canadian (English).
Detective and mystery stories, American.
Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.
Review by Ronald Hore.
"George says—" Meg began, and then stopped. For a time she sat turning her saucer round and round, forty-five degrees at a time, a habit she'd had when we were girls, and she was thinking about how best to say something that the adults had told us we shouldn't say or even think.
And I knew then what–or who–she was thinking about, was Peter Pan.
"Do you remember Peter Pan?" she asked, after a long, long time, in the small voice one usually only hears late at night, when the other girls in the bleak cold dormitory have gone to sleep.
I nodded. I didn't say, How could I forget? I think Peter Pan was the reason that I didn't kill myself when I was seven or eight–and it's a mistake adults make, to think that children who are sufficiently unhappy don't want to try to end their own lives. Mostly we just don't know how. That I'd lived through Mrs. Clegg's ideas of how to operate a girl's school was entirely because I learned to dream, and in those dreams I'd met Peter Pan. - -
Gaslight Grimoire is a book for those who love tales of the great Victorian detective, Sherlock Holmes, mixed up with the spice of the supernatural and the fantastic. The volume contains 11 short stories that range in length from 18 to 36 pages. The opening page of each story is highlighted with a full page black and white illustration relating to that tale. The book opens with an illustration followed by a foreword and an introduction. The first, five pages titled "Ghosts May Apply," provides a bit of background on Holmes and the supernatural. The Introduction, of eight pages, is subtitled "An Introductory Rumination on Stories for Which the World Is Not Yet Prepared." Many of the tales that follow are told by Holmes' good friend, Doctor Watson. The final pages of the book include: a one page bio of the two editors, one page on the two artists, three pages of biography on the stories' authors, and four pages of other volumes by this publisher.
The first story, "The Lost Boy," is a tale of adventure, with Sherlock Holmes and a woman, aided by Peter Pan, battling against villains and monsters from the Neverlands.
The second tale is "His Last Arrow." In this, Holmes and Watson are called in to solve the case of a man shot and killed by a crossbow. Is it suicide, or is it murder? Or does it relate to an ancient evil from the Middle East?
"The Things That Shall Come Upon Them" is a story that takes Holmes and Watson out in the country, to Warwickshire, to investigate strange happenings in Lufford Abbey. They meet up with another detective, who specializes in the supernatural and who has also been called in on the case. Holmes, of course, relies on pure logic.
The next story is called "The Finishing Stroke" where Holmes is called in by Inspector Lestrade to assist in the investigation of the apparent murder of a gentleman who died in broad daylight in a restaurant. This leads into the magic world of strange, deadly paintings.
The fifth story in the book involves Holmes and the reader in the adventures of another Sir Arthur Conan Doyle character, Professor Challenger, as we follow Holmes into "Sherlock Holmes in the Lost World." Holmes joins an expedition with Professor Jessica Cuvier Challenger as she searches for her missing father in the jungles of South America.
Next we have "The Grantchester Grimoire." This case involves Holmes and Watson and the strange goings-on in the library of Grantchester Abbey. They are joined by the famous Occult Detective, Thomas Carnacki.
The tale, "The Steamship Friesland," is one of murder and piracy on the high seas. Sherlock Holmes is called in to investigate murders closer to home and finds a connection.
Story number eight, "The Entwined," investigates the case of a strange young woman who believes she is responsible for the murder of several men. She writes to Sherlock Holmes, asking for his help to determine the truth.
This is followed by the gory "Merridew of Abominable Memory" which has Holmes and Watson on the trail of the Dockside Dismemberer at the request of Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard. They discover a connection to a series of thefts from wealthy gentlemen.
"Red Sunset" leads readers to an elderly Holmes who is assisting a tough Los Angeles private eye. Holmes is living in a senior's home and needs a wheelchair to get around. Their problem leads them to conclude that bats equal vampires.
The final tale in the collection, "The Red Planet League," revolves around Sherlock Holmes famous nemesis, Professor Moriarty, and the professor's efforts to take revenge on an annoying astronomer. Life on Mars takes a new twist in this story.
The stories in this collection, a broad variety all written by various authors, suit the style and mood of the Victorian detective while adding some elements not found in the original tales. While the Arthur Conan Doyle tales had a rational detective facing real crimes and solving them with logic, he avoided the supernatural as an actual, and not just implied, event. Gaslight Grimoire allows for full immersion into Sherlock Holmes vs the world of the occult and unearthly. Readers who enjoy mystery and dark fantasy will find something to enjoy in this collection.
Ronald Hore, involved with writer's groups for several years, retired from the business world in Winnipeg, MB.
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