The Cthulhu Casebooks: Sherlock Holmes and the Shadwell Shadow – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5 stars)
Audio Book Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5 stars)
Total Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5 stars)

Everyone knows the story of Sherlock Holmes. The original story, A Study in Scarlet, has paved the way for this notable detective to influence ever element of popular culture. But, even John Watson lies. At the end of his days, Watson has decided to tell us the truth. There is more to Sherlock Holmes than being a witty detective. He had stretched the truth and changed the stories to suit a better narrative, for the truth is much darker. Upon meeting Sherlock Holmes by pure chance in a pub, rather than introduced by a friend as he so claimed (although the friend is still to blame), Watson and Holmes embark on a journey that takes them to the world of Eldritch Gods, the Necronomicon, and deaths that defy humanity.

Sherlock Holmes answers the call of Cthulhu in James Lovegrove’s retelling of Sherlock Holmes. In a tale told in the same format as the original Sherlock Holmes stories, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, this first part of The Cthulhu Casebooks feels as if it comes right out of the original narrative. Even if you don’t know every Sherlock Holmes story, or only have a small knowledge of HP Lovecraft’s work, you’ll be able to follow along with this adventure. The Old Gods are real, and they are haunting London as shadows, taking lives and stumping even the notorious Sherlock Holmes.

While Lovegrove stays true to the original characters, the retelling did grow a little cumbersome. It spent time recounting details, as is customary with Sherlock Holmes’s stories, and I found myself losing focus on certain passages that went into the deep details of the Old Gods. This is of course expected in a story that combines two author’s work: the author is forced to find a balance between telling the readers enough without confusing them.

As per expected, Moriarty becomes the villain, as is with every Sherlock Holme’s tale. To Sherlock, the answers always come easily, and as is per usual with any Sherlock Holmes tale, he always has a cunning way out of every situation. To some extent though, Sherlock facing these Old Gods seemed almost too intense and bizarre, even for him.

Finally, it can’t go unsaid that since the story tries to stay loyal to its source material, there are instances of racism and prejudiced dotted throughout the story. While the author attempts to rectify this in a preface, taking the role of a fictional author from our time who came into possession of the manuscripts, it is important to be aware of these faults. Yes, it keeps them close to the source material, but could they have been handled better? Possibly.

With all that being said, it was an entertaining read. I’ll probably pick up the next book eventually, more so out of curiosity of how Sherlock Holmes deals with these perplexing foes. It’s just not at the very top of my to-read list.

What’s it about?

In the stews of London’s East End, an outbreak of insanity sees ordinary men and women reduced to gibbering, incoherent wrecks; a mysterious creeping fog hides terrifying apparitions within that rob the wits of all who see them and even inspire suicide.

Sherlock Holmes, in the infancy of his detecting career, deduces a connection between these sinister “shadows” and an Oriental drug lord who is bent on expanding his criminal empire. Yet there are even more sinister forces at work, as the great detective faces a challenge so fearsome and deadly that his career may be over almost as soon as it has begun. 

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