The Stuff of Nightmares

Sherlock Holmes: The Stuff of Nightmares by James Lovegrove

A spate of bombings has hit London, causing untold damage and loss of life, meanwhile a strangely garbed figure has been spied haunting the rooftops and grimy back alleys of the capital. 

Sherlock Holmes believes this strange masked man may hold the key to the attacks. He moves with the extraordinary agility of a latter-day Spring-Heeled Jack. He possesses weaponry and armour of unprecedented sophistication. He is known only by the name Baron Cauchemar, and he appears to be a scourge of crime and villainy. But is he all that he seems? Holmes and his faithful companion Dr Watson are about to embark on one of their strangest and most exhilarating adventures yet. 

Titan Books has been a steadily releasing new Sherlock Holmes fiction over the last couple of years. Sherlock Holmes with his witty remarks and his remarkable sense of observations has always been of interest of me. I read The Army of Dr. Moreau by Guy Adams which has the same type of cover art, there isn't a mentioning of a series that I can find. But what I did discover is that both the books: The Army of Dr. Moreau and The Stuff of Nightmares have a lot of supernatural influences. The Stuff of Nightmares is written by James Lovegrove, who is well known for his Pantheon and Redlaw series. 

It's hard to say whether Sherlock and Watson really go through a development from book to book. There has been many stories written that feature Sherlock and his assistant Dr. Watson, but when I think of this enigmatic duo, I think classic Victorian London, walking sticks, bowler and top type hats and pipes. And yes, each writer has its own writing style and I was wondering how James Lovegrove would voice and let show Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. He did it in the way that most fans will like it, the classic Victorian take, with Sherlock taking the lead, being his typical "dare-devilish" nature and his keen eye of observation and Watson taking the more “let’s think it over before we act” side. Because they themselves are already well established, they can be readily used and allowed James Lovegrove to write up a detailed case study for Sherlock and Dr. Watson. The narration in the way that Watson is writing a book, partly reflecting back on the adventures themselves this allowed a unique way of showing the story as there was one part when Sherlock could have died but the reflection that Watson does with: “Well I could prolong the assumption that Sherlock was dead” but he jumps right back into the story.

For the story of The Stuff of Nightmares, think steampunk, a lot. The story starts off with a the mentioning of recent bombings that have been plaguing the city of London and the perpetrator or perpetrators haven’t been caught so far. Now Sherlock is drawn in to this mystery by his ever-present curiosity to find out who is behind these attacks and why. In the initial set-up of the story you are introduced to several storylines; the first is the case with the bombings that present a threat and the second one is the masked man known as Baron Cauchemar. As you can make up from the synopsis and cover of the book, the steampunk influence I mentioned above is heavily proven by the character of Baron Cauchemar with his various nifty gadgets. But I will get to him in a bit. The first 2/3 of The Stuff of Nightmares is all about showing exposure to current events, what is happening and introducing you to a lot of characters, some to be trusted more than others. You, or I at least, started to make my mind up who the bomber would be and could, in the beginning only make up one character, but by the intervention at the church I was proven wrong. From this point onwards, James Lovegrove, carefully start to release more and more information about one specific character and later Sherlock, as clever as he is, connects the dots. We are still only 2/3 into the story so far and you learn who the bad guy is, now this can break a book, by revealing the culprit to soon it could climax its plot to soon as well. Well that's not the case at all. As you now also learn what the intentions are of the ultimate bad guy of the book and does produce a mad rush for our duo to save the country! I really liked how all of a sudden, by just a few hints, a lot of the earlier proposed things feel into place and how the story in the end was broadened to a whole other level. Well I just have to say this of the plot, the mad race in the end, with Sherlock and Watson in an airship chasing a train, in Victorian steampunk London, that just gives some cool graphic images in the back of my mind. 

Next to the bombings, which proof to be the major part of the storyline there was also the introduction of Baron Cauchemar, first as a myth then as a real person. He is the proposed scourge for the villains of the dark streets of London, only shows himself at night to mete out justice. When I first read about him, I just couldn't trust him, like there has to be more to his character. Baron Cauchemar is a piece of engineering and making bombs also requires a certain finesse and skill... However soon along the lines of the book you learn more about his intentions and in the end his whole story of how it came to be is told, which made it all even that more understandable to what happened earlier. The part that I liked most about his character was his whole set of gear. Yes, he is the guy on the cover. When he "undresses" his armor its told in such a way that I saw this red and yellow suite hovering in the back of my mind! All the gadgets from steamblasters, gas emmisions and his springheels is just awesome to read about, especially taken into consideration his vigilante role and the day and age this story take place.

Now as for the ultimate bad guy of the story, I won't reveal who it is, it's some you have to find out for yourself. But the ending of this book, it something that even the sharpest investigator won't be able to pick out of how as the story starts to unravel. In those last few chapters! brilliant right there. I had this big ear to ear smile on my face when I read Chapter 40 and was making a particular sound, that undoubtedly many other readers will do as well when they read these scenes. This is really talking about lets introduce something totally different.

The whole story of The Stuff of Nightmares managed to grab me from the start but the ending in particular really made this story much more enjoyable super to read. Because on one hand you have the classic Victorian Sherlock Holmes and John Watson and on the other hand you have the influences of something supernatural that makes the whole story just come to life. The Stuff of Nightmares is a great read, which a lot a fantasy enthusiasts will enjoy, it’s has the good point of both worlds, the crime investigation that show a more darker side to the story combined with a lot of cool steampunk and other fantasy elements. If you are looking for a transformed story of your favorite investigative duo, you really have to pick the new Sherlock Holmes books of Titan, they have a fine set of authors steadily turning out more and more books, the next Sherlock Holmes adventure The Will of the Dead by George Mann is out the 8th of November

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