Review by C.J. Bunce
In the new mystery-horror mash-up, Sherlock Holmes & Count Dracula: The Classified Dossier, Volume 1, writer Christian Klaver jumps right in, serving up Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective and Bram Stoker’s Count not in a face-off, but as a team-up. As more rights to Doyle’s works enter the public domain, publishers continue to release dozens of new Holmes books each year, each supplying more files for the seemingly endless drawer of his own “expanded universe” cases (come 2023 anyone will be free to write a Holmes story about anything). This story, another told via the perspective of the reliable confidante Dr. John Watson, is made more fun, because “the more genres, the merrier.”
All told there have been more the two dozen prior accounts by authors connecting Holmes and Dracula. Modern readers of Holmes stories can probably tell Dracula is not to be the villain of this story before cracking open this attractive, vintage-style fabric hardcover book. The role of villain falls to a mysterious phantom known as the Mariner Priest, and his minions, including, as a surprise for the reader and our detective duo, one of Watson’s greatest confidantes. Loosely woven with the Dracula interaction is a Lovecraftian tangent section, “The Adventure of the Innsmouth Whaler,” then another, “The Adventure of the Lustrous Pearl.” They tie into the main narrative but feel more like separate episodes, included for what feels like the set-up of a new series of dossier books.
It may not be a Dracula book in the sense of the grand Master of Dracula novels and lore–Kim Newman–but it’s an even better Dracula book than “just another Holmes pastiche” story, when Dracula gets his time on the page, which is rare. This is your cold, wintry evening curl up with a book novel. It’s a slow read, more than 400 pages stuffed with descriptive matter, tuned to people who don’t need to rush through a book, for people who enjoy actually words and pacing. It’s good horror-mystery fun with the best scenes featuring Holmes and Dracula working together.
Modern Sherlock writers seem to enjoy playing around with Watson’s wife Mary, and here Klaver takes her to another extreme, with relationships and conflicts like you’d find in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The pacing feels episodic, and the interaction feels like a TV series, which may be what brings Spike and Drucilla et al to mind.
The middle two of four sections are good examples of modern Holmes and Watson writing, accessible to any reader, not as archaic as the real thing, which might push some readers away. Twenty-first century Holmes stories always fall into the same trap as villainy goes, and Klaver gets caught here, too. We’re led to a nicely developed new baddie for our crime-thwarting duo, and then the rug is pulled out from under the reader as a surprise far into the narrative. Still, for readers needing a twist at the end, the author supplies a fun climax to his story with a dose of action–and most of the threads come together all aboard a train full of vampires.
It’s a fun entry into the big world of Holmes and Dracula tie-ins and it’s a mash-up remaining faithful to the source material for both characters. It will be most interesting to dig into especially for those new to the genre, seeing these characters beyond what they’ve read before. Sherlock Holmes & Count Dracula: The Classified Dossier Volume 1 is now available here at Amazon from Titan Books.