Warlock Holmes: A Study in Brimstone
Book 1 of Warlock Holmes
By C.S. Denning
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Scott
Sherlock Holmes is an unparalleled genius who uses the gift of deduction and reason to solve the most vexing of crimes.
Warlock Holmes, however, is an idiot. A good man, perhaps; a font of arcane power, certainly. But he’s brilliantly dim. Frankly, he couldn’t deduce his way out of a paper bag. The only thing he has really got going for him are the might of a thousand demons and his stalwart flatmate. Thankfully, Dr. Watson is always there to aid him through the treacherous shoals of Victorian propriety… and save him from a gruesome death every now and again.
An imaginative, irreverent and addictive reimagining of the world’s favourite detective, Warlock Holmes retains the charm, tone and feel of the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle while finally giving the flat at 221b Baker Street what it’s been missing for all these years: an alchemy table.
Reimagining six stories, this riotous mash-up is a glorious new take on the ever-popular Sherlock Holmes myth, featuring the vampire Inspector Vladislav Lestrade, the ogre Inspector Torg Grogsson, and Dr. Watson, the true detective at 221b. And Sherlock. A warlock.
As the saying goes, Sherlock Holmes was the world’s greatest detective. Warlock Holmes is not. Where Sherlock used powers of deductive reasoning, Warlock sort of bumbles into the oft bizarre and strange realms of flights of fantasy that make up his world, with only Dr. John Watson, fresh out of Afghanistan, as the voice of reason. Coupled with the fact that where Sherlock uses mind craft to carve his way to success, Warlock conversely is a sorcerer, with the voice of Moriarity inside his head (not that Moriarity – an entirely different, magic wielding warlock, who uses it for the life of crime), and the power of a thousand demons (of which Warlock poisons himself to still their voices). Bake this in a series of cases that often break your suspension of disbelief, whether overt or covert, and you have Warlock Holmes: A Study in Brimstone.
The writing in the book is set up in a parallel with the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Each case basically of short story or novella length. Whimsy, however, is the order of the day in this spoof on the timeless classics, and there is no greater display of a keen wit here at play. That being said, it is primarily this wit that holds the novel together. Anachronisms and out of place (for Victorian times) diction, runs par for course, and the simplest (and often inconsequential) fact, is the modus operandi of the “villains” if you can call them that, gets obscured by clouds. Stylistically, this is not Sir Arthur Conon Doyle, nor should it be. Most readers will recognize the tropes and references made to Sherlock Holmes’ cases, and will be perfectly clear in the wash. There is an immediate connection with the reader who is familiar to Sherlock’s exploits, but it is neither necessary, nor applicable to the comedic writing of C.S. Denning.
Over the course of the six “cases” that make up the novel, the characterization of the denizens of Warlock Holmes world, are remarkably well done. Dr. John Watson is the prominent leader of deductive reasoning; Warlock Holmes has a few bats in his belfry, and the vampires and creatures of Scotland Yard, and the voice of Moriarity that always speaks the truth (even if it is too much to bear) are fresh pickings off of a historic literary masterpiece. In juxtaposing the roles the characters play, Jennings breathes near life in them. Not new life, but near life. There just isn’t the three dimensionality (except for perhaps, the case of Watson) you’d come to expect in a work like this that treads so haphazardly over perhaps the most three dimensional iconics in the last century (give or take a few years) of literature.
Dialogue, is perhaps the key to this book. The “what should haves” and “what should have nots” are redundant queries here, and the key way the reader is informed as to happenstance from the journals of Dr. John Watson. Watson only lets on what he recounts from firsthand experience (which breaks the fourth wall in “A Study in Brimstone”) and displays quite the remarkable shift in dynamics in their pairing – Holmes and Watson here. Watson stands as the voice of scientific reasoning, and Warlock, well he bumbles along. Throughout the course of the dialogue, we revisit Watson’s keen observation of mannerisms and font of Victorian thought. Even the “villains” in Warlock Holmes: A Study in fire and Brimstone, (it’s quite a stretch to call them that here), are well put together as mouthpieces to either delve into their psyche, or proliferate the plot.
All and all, if you’re looking for a light, airy, often comical read, this is right up your alley. C.S. Jennings has crafted a parody of a timeless classic. Warlock Holmes: A Study in Fire and Brimstone will appeal to some and not to others. If you like 221B Baker Street (yes, that’s correct), with sorcery and a Victorian fantasy element – for aficionados of Sherlock Holmes original adventures, however, be warned: this is not the book you’re looking for. For those who it does interest, there is a sequel coming out in 2017. Watch for it.