By: Corey Lack
The Shadwell Shadows is the first book of James Lovegrove’s series, The Cthulu Casefiles. It features a rewriting of the first few books of the original Sherlock Holmes canon, especially the Study in Scarlet, by having it crossover with the works of the horror author, H.P. Lovecraft.
This first one starts out with John Watson explaining that the stories that fans of the Sherlock Holmes canon are familiar with are completely fake and used to hide the “true” stories of what happened. For example, Watson’s wound that brings him out of the army and back to London was not the result of an enemy sniper, but rather the result of an incident that he is trying to convince himself never happened. While he is trying to drink his memories away, he stumbles into a trap laid by Sherlock in order to catch a suspected murderer who leaves his victims desiccated like they were starved for weeks beforehand even though they were seen only days before in perfect health. As they search for the culprit, they find themselves facing against the infamous Moriarty, who is even more dangerous than he is in the original canon due to having more literal power at his disposal.
The story is certainly a unique one as it keeps the characters as close to the personalities of their original canon as possible while introducing the elements of Lovecraft’s stories. As a result, Sherlock, understandably, has issues dealing with the supernatural and the occult when he’d much rather be focusing on facts and science, but as one might expect from the character, he can’t leave a case unsolved or a thread unpulled even if it throws him off-balance. That said, he is still the same know-it-all, super observant detective most people know him as.
The main issue that I had with the story is that the narrator tells the reader on multiple occasions that this story was different than the original canon. For instance, it tells the reader that Watson had actually met certain characters earlier than in the original stories. I felt like this wasn’t necessary by the third incident and got a little old.
This story is certainly entertaining and it’s a very unique premise all things considered, but I’m not sure it’s really for the more purist fans of the Sherlock Holmes stories, specifically the ones that are more interested in a clever, logic-focused mystery than a more action-oriented adventure. That said, I don’t think it’s a bad story and I’d certainly recommend giving it a read. I’d give it 8.5 deadly overpasses out of 10.