Sherlock Holmes & The Christmas Demon by James Lovegrove
Published: October 22nd by Titan Books
“Father Christmas! Halt right there!” The words were delivered by Sherlock Holmes in the most stentorian and authoritative tone of voice.”
It is 1890, and in the days before Christmas Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson are visited at Baker Street by a new client. Eve Allerthorpe – eldest daughter of a grand but somewhat eccentric Yorkshire-based dynasty – is greatly distressed, as she believes she is being haunted by a demonic Christmas spirit.
Her late mother told her terrifying tales of the sinister Black Thurrick, and Eve is sure that she has seen the creature from her bedroom window. What is more, she has begun to receive mysterious parcels of birch twigs, the Black Thurrick’s calling card…
Eve stands to inherit a fortune if she is sound in mind, but it seems that something – or someone – is threatening her sanity. Holmes and Watson travel to the Allerthorpe family seat at Fellscar Keep to investigate, but soon discover that there is more to the case than at first appeared. There is another spirit haunting the family, and when a member of the household is found dead, the companions realise that no one is beyond suspicion.
I’ve spent years being intrigued by Sherlock Holmes and his various tales although found myself to have not actually read very many (A study in Scarlett and The Hound of the Baskervilles being the only ones). I’ve enjoyed a few adaptations and films here and there but, as I think might have been the case for more than a few people I really became
infatuated interested after watching the BBC’s modern take on Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Before the show, I had always thought Sherlock to be rather old and stuffy but the show definitely helped to breathe some new life into it and shortly after was when I decided to finally read some of the stories surrounding the famous sleuth. My attention waned after a time and I hadn’t gone back to any more Sherlock stories until the lovely Sarah from Titan books offered me a review copy of a new book by James Lovegrove called Sherlock & The Christmas Demon. My acceptance was three-fold here. First, the cover is absolutely stunning and I think it’s one of the most aesthetically pleasing books I own that and my curiosity about a “new” Sherlock Holmes book pretty much already sold me but as soon as I recognised the authors name it became a definite yes from me after reading the Firefly story that James had also penned (Big Damn hero – My spoiler-free review can be found here and Q&A here) earlier in the year which I adored.
Set in late 1980, Sherlock Holmes & The Christmas Demon this is still fairly early in the timeline of tales for Sherlock and Watson and although they have gained some notoriety with Watson having published two books they are still relatively unknown to some which added a nice dynamic in that I didn’t feel hugely behind or left out having not read a lot of other material and made it hit or miss if other characters had even heard of the pair. Although the story begins in London it takes Sherlock and Watson to a large foreboding castle turned family estate in York. The cold, uninviting castle surrounded by snow and ice is the perfect setting for the story of the Christmas Demon, known as the Black Thurrick. Despite being rather bare the castle really does seem to be a character in its own right and I’m considering putting the heating on in my flat just thinking about it. Brr. Castle Allethorpe, the lake beside it, the forest nearby, the town and tavern five miles away, it’s all described so well without being overlong or boring and in such a way that it’s exceedingly easy to conjure in the mind’s eye and adds to the atmosphere in a noticeable way.
The characters, much like their surroundings can vary from cold and unfriendly, to moderately warm and forthcoming and are equally as easy to imagine vividly, if not with a physical representation then certainly their personalities and traits which shine through and everyone just fits so well. Sherlock and Watson especially are what I would call picture perfect, they feel absolutely on point, their essence has been perfectly captured and you can tell James really loves them.
The story itself is elegant, a little spooky and so well put together from the prologue of sorts to the initial mystery, twists throughout and eventual reveal and deduction break down from Holmes, not to mention the ending on a whole was wonderful, perfectly festive and beautifully Holmes-esque. I like cliffhanger endings but there’s just something so wholesome about a well wrapped up tale. Everything fits together so well and it was a truly enjoyable read and one that means I will definitely be reading more of James’s Sherlock work!