It is 1890, and in the days before Christmas Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson are visited at Baker Street by a new client. Eve Allerthorpe – eldest daughter of a grand but somewhat eccentric Yorkshire-based dynasty – is greatly distressed, as she believes she is being haunted by a demonic Christmas spirit.
Her late mother told her terrifying tales of the sinister Black Thurrick, and Eve is sure that she has seen the creature from her bedroom window. What is more, she has begun to receive mysterious parcels of birch twigs, the Black Thurrick’s calling card…
Eve stands to inherit a fortune if she is sound in mind, but it seems that something – or someone – is threatening her sanity. Holmes and Watson travel to the Allerthorpe family seat at Fellscar Keep to investigate, but soon discover that there is more to the case than at first appeared. There is another spirit haunting the family, and when a member of the household is found dead, the companions realise that no one is beyond suspicion.
Title: Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon | Author: James Lovegrove | Publisher: Titan Books | Pub. Date: 22 October 2019 | Pages: 384| ISBN: 9781785658020 | Genre: Mystery/Thriller | Language: English | Triggers: None | Rating: 4 out of 5 | Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon Review
I’ve discovered recently that I’m more of a fan of Sherlock Holmes tribute bands than I am the real thing. In these hipster days, when authenticity is everything and being able to say that you prefer the “original” is the only way to assure your critical opinion is taking seriously, it feels like a strange thing to say. It’s true though, and ‘Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon’ has proved it to me beyond all shadow of a doubt.
I think the problem may be that the original Holmes mysteries penned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are so well known and oft-repeated that they have lost their mystery. I recently read the first two, ‘A Study in Scarlet’ and ‘The Sign of the Four’ and quickly realised that I enjoyed Holmes as a character far more than I did the stories, especially as both rely so heavily on Holmes-free back story. The famous detective is such a great creation that he tends to overshadow the plots and leaves the books feeling empty when he is not on the page. In both of those books, I quickly realised that my favourite scenes were the incidental ones where Sherlock bemuses some random character by deducing what they had for breakfast, the name and breed of their childhood dog and the last time they visited their mother.
Which brings us to ‘Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon’ by James Lovegrove, an author who has made his name by penning Holmes tributes, including some that weave in HP Lovecraft’s Cthulu mythos. This particular adventure lacks the terrible old gods, but makes up for it with some entertaining hints of the supernatural, a dysfunctional aristocratic family and a crumbling remote mansion. None of it is desperately original, but then I didn’t expect (or want) that from a book featuring a character who was created over 130 years ago.
Instead we get a solid mystery with an entertaining cast of suspects and victims and lots of twists. There is also an abundance of atmosphere, a lot of it coming from the creepy local folklore surrounding the “Christmas Demon”, Black Thurrick. And then of course there is Holmes himself who is a delight. Acerbic, self-centred and utterly brilliant, he strides through the book like the great creation he is, adding value on every page. The result is a novel that’s as much puzzling fun as you could hope for and the perfect addition to any mystery-lover’s Christmas stocking, especially as the hardcover edition is so beautiful.
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