Perhaps the most widely beloved Sherlock Holmes novella, The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902) holds a unique position in literary history. Its marriage of the gothic and detective fiction makes for a superbly enticing and atmospheric tale, despite even Holmes’s substantive absence for a significant portion. The eponymous hound’s glowing eyes and midnight yowling continue to haunt us. It is, in short, a difficult novel to follow up. In James Lovegrove’s latest pastiche Sherlock Holmes and the Beast of the Stapletons, he attempts precisely this.
In the first story of The Manifestations of Sherlock Holmes, an exasperated Dr. Watson asks Holmes, “Would you not allow that there is at least an outside chance that something other, something ineffable and indefinable, surrounds our lives and from time to time permeates them?” Author James Lovegrove positions his new Holmes book to consider Watson’s premise: what boundaries will readers accept for the great detective?
It was over a year ago that I last reviewed one of James Lovegrove’s Sherlock Holmes pastiches. Going into it, I will admit, I was sceptical. Not only can pastiches be poorly done, but this particular book was not an ordinary pastiche. While, I have subsequently learnt, this wasn’t a new concept, Lovegrove had transported Sherlock Holmes into the world of Lovecraft, a bizarre mash-up that, on paper, should never have worked. To my surprise and delight, it did. Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon, however, is a more conventional Sherlock Holmes story, but it still has plenty of ability to surprise and delight in almost equal measure.