For two literary universes that are so totally different from one another, there are a surprising amount of mash-ups of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes story and the Cthulhu Mythos of H.P. Lovecraft. Neil Gaiman wrote the memorable short ‘A Study in Emerald’, James Lovegrove has his The Cthulhu Casebooks series and so on. The latest effort in this strange sub-genre of Holmes pastiches is the brilliantly titled Sherlock Holmes vs Cthulhu: The Adventure of the Deadly Dimensions, from New York Times bestselling author Lois. H. Gresh.
When a series of grisly murders plague good old London town, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson discover that something ancient, otherwordly and unnameable is awakening. The threat is so great that Holmes and Watson will be pushed to make an unholy alliance with their greatest enemy – that Napoleon of Crime, Professor Moriarty.
Even if the premise isn’t as fresh as it sounds, The Adventure of the Deadly Dimensions compares very favourably with the similar works that have come before. There is just something irresistible about mixing the rational Holmes with something so wholly irrational and supernatural as Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones. Gresh is an excellent plotter as she weaves an engaging mystery that builds from typical Holmesian fare into pure Lovecraftian horror. Along the way, Gresh raids the toybox of both Doyle and Lovecraft and employs both of their tropes and commonly found story elements, so fans of both authors’ styles will find much to love about this novel.
What most impressed this hardcore Holmesian, though, was the novel’s focus on John Watson, a character often simply relegated to the narrator role. Here, Gresh zeroes in on the fascinating conflict in Watson’s character that isn’t often explored: who does he love more – his wife Mary or his best friend Sherlock? With the addition of a baby, John’s home life is deepened more than usual which puts John at the heart of the book. That’s not to say that Holmes is sidelined, though. It’s always fascinating to see Holmes’ stringent beliefs challenged and that is definitely in play here.
Sherlock Holmes vs Cthulhu is a rollicking read for its enjoyable – yet strangely familiar -literary mash-up as well as its genuinely great rendering of both Holmes and Watson, in particular the latter. The good news is that this is only the first of a planned trilogy, so we can look forward to even more ‘Cthulhu meets Conan Doyle’ goodness in future.
SHERLOCK HOLMES VS CTHULHU: THE ADVENTURE OF THE DEADLY DIMENSIONS / AUTHOR: LOIS. H. GRESH / PUBLISHER: TITAN BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: 4TH JULY