Book Review: Sherlock Holmes: The Stuff of Nightmares by James Lovegrove

Review by: Prof. Jenn

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Now obviously any Sherlock Holmes pastiche isn’t going to be Doyle. However, if one is going to set one’s pastiche in Victorian London, it needs to at least read like historical fiction. Especially if one is (rightfully so) writing said pastiche from Dr. Watson’s POV. It needs to sound like Victorian Watson’s narration. Stuff of Nightmares almost does this well, but the slip-ups are numerous enough to make it read in general as anachronistic. Here’s the low-down, according to me:

What I liked:

  • background into Watson’s feelings about his wife, the invention of her miscarriages, his feelings about Holmes and the violent events he sees. He’s not simpering, but has honest reactions as a doctor and a human
  • I always enjoy the premise of taking one of the many stories Doyle’s Watson was never going to put into print, and create it based on Sherlockian research. This isn’t your typical Sherlock-vs-whatever-1800s-villain-sounds-fun but original, actually well fleshed out, and action-packed
  • an engaging, shudder-inducing villain in the lines of George Burnwell or Baron Gruner from Doyle
  • feminism, but done correctly for the time period

What I didn’t like:

  • Holmes’ character is inconsistent, unrealistic
  • a long backstory narration almost as interminable as The Great Alkali Plain
  • many narrative anachronisms in the form of contemporary word choice/diction
  • steampunk Transformers?! Really, Mr. Lovegrove?! Seriously??

Bottom Line: it’s mildly entertaining but not among the best of the Sherlockian pastiches. You can find a better.