Book review–James Lovegrove’s Sherlock Holmes and the Shadwell Shadows

cthulhu 1

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

We’re big fans of James Lovegrove here at borg.  This time, I managed to beat C.J. to one of the books!  Sherlock Holmes and the Shadwell Shadows is the first volume in Lovegrove’s The Cthulhu Casebooks trilogy, an alternate history of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson’s adventures that sets the record straight about their real cases, those steeped in the paranormal and supernatural.  As the series title suggests, the trilogy draws on the canon not just of Arthur Conan Doyle, but of Lovegrove’s “distant American ancestor,” H.P. Lovecraft.  The result is a lively and somehow entirely natural mash-up.  (See our previous review of the final volume, Sherlock Holmes and the Sussex Sea-Devils, here).

Sherlock Holmes and the Shadwell Shadows is a Holmes and Watson origin story, reimagining their initial meeting and first case, beginning with Chapter 1, “A Study in Scar Tissue.”  Right away you know what you’re in for.  As Watson comes clean about the true history of his association with the world’s finest (or only) consulting detective, he corrects his previous misinformation, written to protect the public from horrors we were not ready to face.

This first volume in the series is a fun, speedy read full of everything you love about Holmes and Lovecraft—supercilious observations from Holmes, brave bluster from a doughty Watson, rich Victoriana, and a familiar cast of characters including Mycroft and Inspector Gregson and a certain notorious archenemy.  …And it’s everything you love about Lovecraft: larger-than-life Great Old gods, cannibalistic lizard men, Cthulhu, and passages in untranslated R’lyehian (fortunately, Watson goes to some length to learn the language on our behalf).  With notes that are more than a little reminiscent of Doctor Who (the monsters here will recall the Vashta Nerada, “the shadows that live,” and the reptilian hominids seem close relatives of the Silurians), this is a book redolent with classic characters and tropes, twisted into a fresh and entertaining tale that will have readers eager to pick up the rest.

The Cthulhu Casebooks are all available here at Amazon in print, eBook, and audio:  Sherlock Holmes and the Shadwell Shadows here, Sherlock Holmes and the Miskatonic Monstrosities here, and Sherlock Holmes and the Sussex Sea-Devils here.

Manifestations lovegrove

Fans of Lovegrove, Holmes, and Lovecraft will also want to check out Lovegrove’s short story collection, The Manifestations of Sherlock Holmes, available here, which includes a Cthulhu story.

Leave a Reply