Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell, by Paul Kane

 Was anyone really asking for a Sherlock Holmes/Hellraiser mashup...?

 Not that I'm aware of. I certainly wasn't. So shame on all of us for not demanding this sooner, and hats off to author Paul Kane for delivering this delightfully grotesque meeting of genre heavyweights.

 SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SERVANTS OF HELL finds a weathered and world-weary Holmes taking on a seemingly routine missing persons case that turns out to be so much more: Seemingly unconnected citizens are vanishing from inside locked rooms...the victims are usually heard screaming horribly, but there is never any sign of foul play, or trace of bloodshed on the scene. Witnesses report seeing strange lights emanating from the rooms, and a disheveled vagrant has been seen nearby shortly after each event.

 The investigations all eventually converge, and set Holmes and Watson on the trail of a mysterious sect known as "The Order of The Gash", who seem to be responsible for the dispersal of a series of strange boxes that are connected to the crimes. As Watson sets off for Paris to discover the source of the boxes, Holmes prepares to confront the engineer of the mystery, and finds himself tested to the limits of his endurance, both mentally and physically....

 I think it would have been mind-boggling to discover this books mysteries without any prior knowledge, but seeing as how the front cover exclaims "SET IN CLIVE BARKER'S HELLRAISING WORLD" , it's probably safe to assume that you've figured out that "The Order of The Gash" is, in fact, another name for The Cenobites, made famous in Clive Barker's legendary novella THE HELLBOUND HEART" and the film HELLRAISER and its umpteen sequels. I'm sure Holmes purists will turn up their snoots at a book like this, which is a real shame, because Paul Kane takes great pains to remain faithful to both Barker AND Doyle's separate mythologies, up to and including stories set in their respective timelines that were written by other authors.

 It's been a long time since I last read an Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes story, but I was quite a fan when I was younger, and Kane's prose captured the feel of an authentic Doyle story. One of the many fun aspects of this book is the way that Kane manages to integrate and merge Barker's grotesque tableaus  into Holmes' more genteel, proper world. I no longer consider myself much of an expert on Holmes, and I gave up on Barker's HELLRAISER films after the dismal third outing, but Wikipedia was my friend as I researched the dozens of easter eggs that Kane peppers the novel with. Kane has really done his research, and it shows. I had a blast connecting all of the dots and piecing together the bigger picture that he was alluding to. (Kane's afterword details the contributions made to the text by Clive Barker, and which authors created the various Cenobites that he uses in the novel's wild finale.)

 If I had any complaint with this novel, it was that the end was a tad too similar to Clive Barker's dismal THE SCARLET GOSPELS, although Kane's finale is a million times better. I was also puzzled by the fact that Barker seems to have gone out of his way to make sure that Kane included a direct reference to Pinhead's human alter-ego, when he inferred in the aforementioned THE SCARLET GOSPELS that Pinhead was never human. At this point, I've pretty much written Barker off, so I was able to let that continuity gaffe slide, since I had such a great time reading this novel. Highly recommended to fans or either literary mythology.

 Solaris provided a review copy.

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