Advance Review: Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell

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Before I begin I’d like to thank the team at Solaris Books, Rob Power, and especially author Paul Kane for allowing The Clive Barker Podcast Team to do advance reviews for this book. We appreciate it very much.

Crossover stories have always been tricky to pull off. Most of them tend to pick a side and never really find a solid middle ground to do justice to both universes. I also find that some fans come away feeling alienated because they feel the characters they’ve come to love over the years aren’t given the respect they deserve. I know I have. A good example of this would be the film adaptation of Freddy vs. Jason. I’m happy to report though that both the Hellraiser and Sherlock Holmes universes are given the same amount of respect in Paul Kane’s new novel Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell.

I’m not going to go into the details of the story for this review, but simply touch on the aspects that I really enjoyed the most about it. I will say that story reminded me of a couple Sherlock Holmes stories like The Valley of Fear, The Final Problem, The Sign of the Four, and of course Clive Barker’s The Hellbound Heart. Saying anything more would really spoil the surprise.

First off, Paul has perfectly captured the essence of Sherlock Holmes and how these stories work. The atmosphere was dead on and at times it felt like I was reading another story written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. As for the Hellraiser elements I knew he would deliver on this end of the narrative. The man has lived and breathed this world for years so that part was going to be a given.

The best part of Servants of Hell is Holmes and Watson, especially Watson. For me this story was more about him coming to grips with his past and how his belief system is tested through the narrative. You even begin to question whether Watson will remain sane or not by the end.

Holmes is a much darker character here too than I’ve ever seen him before. Paul uses ideas from previous stories about how Holmes has built up tolerances to drugs and poisons to help him withstand anything so he can control his body and mind in any given situation. Well almost anything if you understand my meaning. In Servants of Hell Holmes faces his most dangerous opponents yet!

If you were disappointed in the lack of new cenobite creations in The Scarlet Gospels (I wasn’t one of them) fear not because Paul has literally created a small army of news ones here. I think NECA toys could start up their Hellraiser toy line again if they wanted to with all the original creations that he‘s come up with.

The last one-hundred pages is a pure adrenaline rush of action and gore that will surely keep the reader on the edge of their seat. The lavish action sequences that are described reminded me of paintings from the mind of Hieronymus Bosch. There’s so much visual imagery it can be overwhelming at times.

I will admit there were sections in the story where I thought things were going to get goofy and take me out of the narrative, and with a lesser writer it probably would’ve. The story does take some daring chances that could’ve backfired, but with Paul writing I felt safe as a reader and he actually turned some of these potentially silly moments into some of the best parts of the book.

Paul also includes tons of easter eggs (a constant motif in his books) in the story from both universes which made smile when I would catch them. My favorites being a nod to one of Clive Barker‘s famous short story collections, and a strange vision through time with Watson witnessing a familiar scene from one of the Hellraiser films.

Which leads me to my biggest problem with the book which is it feels over stuffed with to many nods to the original stories. In some areas I wish Paul would’ve created fresh characters that didn’t tie into the established mythologies. It made the early investigations by Holmes and Watson a little predictable to me. There’s also a relative of a character from the Clive Barker universe that’s introduced here that I didn’t care for. I’m sure other fans will love it though, but for me in felt thrown in. But these “very small problems” aren’t enough to keep me from recommending the book. Not at all.

Well, he’s done it again! Author Paul Kane has delivered another exciting and horror filled tale with Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell. If you want mystery and suspense in the similar style of the classic Sherlock Holmes stories you’ve got it here! If you want skinned bodies, weird insane asylums, and bizarre cenobite characters, Paul has you more than covered there too. Clive Barker described The Scarlet Gospels as a kick to the gut then I would go a step further and describe Servants of Hell as a solid ass kicking!


Don’t forget to place your pre-order today for the book on the Amazon official page:

Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell will be officially released on July 12.

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  1. George

    I just got finished reading this ridiculous book on Google Books, which hosts a very long preview (virtually the entire novel.) And what a piece of garbage it is. Be warned: “Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell” is really just “The Scarlet Gospels” (which I didn’t care for at all) with Holmes and Watson thrown in.

    (Spoilers ahead!)

    There is a huge (and ridiculous) battle in Hell toward the end, and several silly scenes with the Cenobites throughout (I guess Cenobites don’t translate very well to the written page.) Paul Kane’s “Hell” is really just Barker’s Hell from the second Hellraiser movie, with a lot of Scarlet Gospel-type action throughout, and the combination is just awful, non-suspenseful, and cringeworthy. Professor Moriarty is a Cenobite in this “Hell,” as are most of the villains Holmes has defeated over the years, and if that sounds too cheesy for words, you’re not alone in this belief – the scene where they torture Holmes is particularly trite and stupid.

    Everything is clearly shown in Kane’s Hell, into which Holmes and Watson eventually find their way, running up and down stone corridors and seeing silly monsters and pointless gratuitous gore. Zero suspense. No originality. Sherlock Holmes eventually becomes a Cenobite himself, the most powerful ever, after bargaining for power with the god Leviathan (I think), in order to lead an army against Moriarty’s minions in a battle so goofy it defies description. What a stupid book.

    I recall reading where Watson is learning battle tactics in a giant Afterlife Library, aided by the spirit of his dead wife Mary (who conveniently floats next to him in a rippling white dress) and I remember thinking, “Is this serious? Can this book really be this bad?” That was only the very beginning, my friends. Just the very tip of the iceberg.

    I can’t take either Holmes or Watson seriously as characters ever again after this, knowing that they have been published in this tripe, endorsed both by Clive Barker and Holmes “expert,” Paul Kane. Ugh. Even the Cenobites come off as absurd, non-frightening, and laughable in this book. I wish I could ask for my money back, but all I really wasted was my time.

    Silliness from about the middle to the very end. COMPLETELY useless.

    • Rob Ridenour

      We’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one. Though I did have some small problems with the book over all I found the book to be very engaging and a hell of a ride. All the stuff in Hell was some of my favorite parts.

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