________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 22 . . . . February 10, 2012


Gaslight Arcanum: Uncanny Tales of Sherlock Holmes.

J.R. Campbell & Charles Prepolec, eds.
Calgary, AB: EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2011.
277 pp., pbk., $15.95.
ISBN 978-1-894063-60-9.

Subject Headings:
Holmes, Sherlock (Fictitious character)-Fiction.
Horror tales.

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.

Review by Ronald Hore.

***½ /4



"We've a 'ole new set o' scene shifters today. The usual lot, 'oo come with the company, didn't turn up this morning. Took sick at an ice cream parlour, after hours. All of 'em, to a man, 'ad cousins ready to step in. Seventeen of 'em. Now you mentions it, they are a remarkable bunch, for eye talians. Oh, you can't mistake 'em for anythin' else, Colonel. To look at 'em, they're eye tye through and through. Waxy 'taches, brown complexions, glittery eyes, tight trews, black 'air. But there's a funny thing, a singular thing they don't squabble. Never met an eye tye 'oo didn't spend all the hours 'o the day shoutin' at any other eye tye within ear shot. Most productions, scene shifters come to blows five or six times a performance. Someone storms out or back in. Elbow in the eye, knee in the crotch, a lot o' monkey jabber with spitting and hand gestures 'oose meanin' can't be mistook. There's been woundin'. Cripplin' even. All over 'oo gets to pick up which old helmet. This lot, the substitute shifters, work like clockwork. Don't say anythin' much. Just get the job done. No arguments. Management's in 'eaven. They wants to sack the no shows, and keep this mob on permanent." (From: "The Adventures of the Six Maledictions.")

Gaslight Arcanum: Uncanny Tales of Sherlock Holmes is a collection of 12 tales about the great fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, but with an even more fantastical flavour than usual. The anthology opens with one page mentioning previous books in the series, plus a bit about the illustrators, followed by a six page introduction from one of the editors entitled "I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere." In addition to the full colour cover art, there are seven full page black and white illustrations relating to some of the tales scattered throughout. Each of the 12 stories in the collection is followed by a brief biography of the respective author.

      The first tale in the collection, "The Comfort of the Seine," tells of the early life of the detective and how he arrived at some of his powers of deduction, beginning in a Paris morgue.

      The second story, "The Adventure of Lucifer's Footprints," takes Holmes and his faithful Dr. Watson into the English countryside in search of a solution to a mysterious death and footprints in the snow.

      "The Deadly Sin of Sherlock Holmes" has the detective and his companion on the trail of death that follows a deadly ancient book from medieval times to Victorian London.

      The next in the collection is "The Colour That Came to Chiswick," a tale of death set in a brewery, where the cause of death may not necessarily be of this world.

      "From the Tree of Time" has a different choice of narrator from the usual Dr. Watson. It is a tale told be Count Dracula about the mystery of a locked room and a missing corpse.

      The next story,"The Executioner," opens with Sherlock Holmes waking up in a strange laboratory after a deadly tumble at a waterfalls. His host is another famous character out of fiction.

      "A Country Death" is told from the point of view of a police detective who is investigating the strange death of a retired gentleman named Holmes.

      The next tale, "Sherlock Holmes and the Great Game," takes Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson deep into the Canadian Arctic to combat evil. Is their foe the Russians, or something much worse, like an Aztec god?

      In "Sherlock Holmes and the Diving Bell," Holmes and Watson must solve the mystery of voices coming from a wreck on the bottom of the sea, when there should be no one left alive down there.

      Narrated by Dr. Watson, "The Greatest Mystery" has the pair trying to solve several unexplained nasty murders with Holmes coming face to face with perhaps his deadliest foe.

      Set in modern day Las Vegas, "The House of Blood" sees Sherlock Holmes assisting the American police in tracking down the assailants behind a string of recent brutal murders and robberies.

      The final adventure in the collection, "The Adventure of the Six Maledictions," is told from the point of view of an associate of the criminal mastermind, Professor Moriarty, and it follows their elaborate efforts to break a death curse, for a fee of course.

      With a wide range of evil doers, human and not, and settings stretching from the English countryside to the Arctic, there is something in this well written anthology for everyone who is a fan of Sherlock Holmes, or who simply enjoys mystery tales with a hint of the unusual or occult. The authors are all experienced writers and offer a wide range of views coming as they do from the UK, the US and Canada.

Highly Recommended.

Ronald Hore, involved with writer's groups for several years, retired from the business world in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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