Sherlock Holmes And The Servants Of Hell by Paul Kane (book review)

I’m used to a Sherlock mash-up so ‘Sherlock Holmes And The Servants Of Hell didn’t faze me. It’s been a while since I read any Clive Barker novels but this did not actually matter in the grand scheme. The introduction sets out the stall and what characters are drawn from the Barker cabal. There is a lot to like here but there are aspects that did not appeal in the end.


Watson is our narrator in the main. He is revealing one of the many unpublished tales about his friend and colleague, the great amateur detective Sherlock Holmes. This time it is not for public consumption. Although he has written it down as he narrates it to us, Watson says he intends to burn it. Watson believes that his greatest skill has been to publish the stories about Holmes. He admits to the odd embellishment but this one is the unvarnished truth and so strange that no one would believe it anyway.

When Sherlock is invited to look for various missing people, he determines a link between this apparently disparate group. An incredible truth begins to emerge that Watson cannot or will not comprehend. Soon Holmes sends Watson to Paris to undertake a single part of the search or, as Holmes hopes, a wild goose chase. When the pair are separated, it emerges they are both in deadly danger. Holmes underestimates the powers in play and has brought about their likely destruction at the hands of the Servants of Hell.

I found the tale to be well told but, as the final part arrived, I grew weary and perhaps in the main because the knowledgeable Holmes is really missing from this. The whole point of the Holmes we have learned to love is the intellectual and verbal word play and this is put to one side for the spectacle of battle. I also wasn’t sure that the supernatural part was consistent. The servants of hell don’t do it for me. I found myself wondering about how they got all that leather clothing. Do they have elves? A featured ghost also got me thinking this was a ‘get out of jail free’ card for our adventurers and, of course, once you start doubting the internal workings of a story, it becomes less engaging. I’m not against these mash-ups and each to their own but it’s not for me.

Sue Davies

July 2016

(pub: Solaris 384 page paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78108-454-0)

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