“Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell”: Spoiler-Free Review!!!
Paul Kane‘s latest novel came out this July 12th, and I’ve had the opportunity to review it thanks to Paul Kane, Rob Power and Rebellion Publishing/Solaris Books. The following will be a spoiler-free review:
“Paul Kane is a first-rate storyteller”
— Clive Barker
“Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell” uses two very well established literary characters, and mixes their worlds together in an extremely fun and refreshing mashup, using both literary universes to the story’s great advantage. The references to each are plentiful, but they grow organically out of the story, in a well-paced, rewarding fashion. It’s a 289-page story that reads quickly, but at the same time challenges you to admire its style and form, written as it is by a certain Doctor Watson in the late 1890s.Of course, I’m talking about Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell, and the characters are the world’s greatest detective Sherlock Holmes, created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the Hell Priest known in some circles as Pinhead from the Hellraiser movies and Clive Barker’s novella “The Hellbound Heart”. An unlikely match at first, you quickly come to the realization that this may be one of the most fortunate uses of the latter character by including him in late Victorian era London. This brings up the very cultured feel of the time, and a certain refined sensibility to the story that adds to the charm. On the other hand, you also experience the dark, restrictive underbelly of that era, with its moralistic repression and the cult-like hedonism that was practiced in secrecy, behind closed doors, that allows for the hellish side of the story to flourish.
In this story, Holmes has recently survived a terrible ordeal that has left him feeling aimless. After spending some time in mysterious seclusion he returns in spectacular fashion to his 221B Baker Street office, to the familiarity of Mrs. Hudson and his colleague Joseph Watson. This new Holmes seems haunted by some unknown malaise, that we will quickly understand is a training of sorts for his most fantastic case yet.This Holmes is the Holmes of ” The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot”; he doesn’t shy away from death or danger. He’s almost superhuman in his wit, sharp intellect and focused awareness, that makes him the best detective around. However, Watson is back as well, and he’s our narrator, as would be expected. If you’re a reader of Conan Doyle’s Holmes novels, you will definitely feel at home with the way Paul Kane reproduces Watson’s voice; it’s damn near perfect in tone and form. Of course, it’s very convenient that Conan Doyle had Watson be the narrator as it allows Holmes to maintain his internal voice a mystery and make his intellectual prowess even more impressive when he blurts out details that he later explains were hiding in plain sight.
Make no mistake though: Watson is second only to Holmes in his skills. In fact, in this story he often takes a front row seat to the action and keeps the story moving forward while Holmes is left to his own process. Watson is likable and warm, strong and resourceful. The dynamic between the two colleagues is very fraternal. Holmes’ personality would probably be considered nowadays to be stiff and high-functioning, but his respect and almost fraternal love for Watson (and vice-versa) does shine through in brief, personal remarks.
When a certain gentleman named Cotton appears, you can’t help but crack a giant smile and dig in, hoping for a trip that doesn’t disappoint. After an initial string of disappearances, seemingly unrelated, the story picks up speed very quickly. You will find plenty of characters that you’ve seen before in a different form, make their appearance here, weaved into the Victorian era, and made all the more interesting for it. The story will take us on a steam boat from London to Calais and Paris; the detective duo will come across strange disappearances from within locked rooms, with dried blood between the floorboards and the scent of vanilla, and a certain artifact will emerge with terrible consequences.
There’s a craft in melding two universes like this, and in my opinion, Paul Kane has achieved this almost flawlessly. Reading “The Servants of Hell” is like stepping through the looking-glass and coming out the other side in an alternate universe, where the Hellraiser characters all jumped back a century. Most had their names slightly changed to reflect that alternate nature, but for anyone with an average knowledge of the Hellraiser movies, they’ll quickly recognize them anyway. As this is a spoiler-free review, I’ll refrain from adding more details, but this adventure will leave you wanting for more, more of these characters, more of this Holmes.As a avid reader of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, I started with Holmes’ stories as a young kid and moved on to his Professor Challenger stories, like “The Lost World”, and I’ve been a lifelong enthusiast of Clive Barker’s work as you can imagine, so for me this book was an absolute treat. I started with Paul Kane’s book “The Hellraiser Films and their Legacy” and over the years, I’ve had the chance to read more of his work, like “Monsters”, “RED” and ” Blood RED”, the “Hellbound Hearts” anthology, “Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell” and now I am starting “Snow”.
I heard Paul Kane may have this version of Sherlock Holmes meet up with the Wolves from “Blood RED” in the future. I hope this is true, I think he’ll do an amazing job.”Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell” is an amazing experience, that will have you sitting on the edge of your chair. The references are used as a way to make this world seem more real and connected to both universes, but they don’t make the story any more predictable. In fact, you will find yourself guessing the next page only to be pleasantly surprised. The book comes with an introduction by the talented actress and Author Barbie Wilde as well.I can’t recommend this book enough. Buy it, and experience it for yourself. If you’re a Hellraiser fan, you’ll love it. If you’re a Sherlock Holmes fan, you’ll enjoy it. If you’ve never read Sherlock Holmes, I hope this will point you towards his novels. Trust me, it’s a win-win.