I was all set to dislike Guy Adams’ SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE ARMY OF DR. MOREAU. As an old-school Sherlockian, it disturbs me to find modern authors attempting to write a pastiche or, heaven forbid, a parody of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s writing style. Doyle is so Victorian in his sentence structures that it makes contemporary authors balk.
And Sherlock Holmes himself is such a wonderfully complex character that many newer authors can’t encapsulate both the exuberantly boundless passion and the sociopathic coldness that is the core of the perversely lovable Holmes.
So I wasn’t expecting much. But Adams plays this well. He tries, just a little bit, to convey Doyle writing as Watson, but this is unsuccessful and I don’t think the author cares all that much. Instead, he delivers a charming, and disarming, first chapter that addresses his readers and his critics (including Sherlock devotees like myself) that shows us we need to relax, let the story develop, and know that we are reading an author who actually cares about the Sherlockian canon.
That’s a big win. When he brings in characters like Professor Challenger (from Doyle) and Dr. Moreau (from H.G. Wells), it can become challenging to accept these literary intrusions, but the author Adams handles this with such panache that you totally understand their presence. It’s remarkable, really.
This is not meant to be a story that Doyle could have written. It’s meant to be a story that is an homage to Doyle and Holmes and Watson, an homage that capitalizes on odd gimmicks such as meshing Wells’ Dr. Moreau character with that of Doyle’s Holmes, an homage that says let’s just have a good time and see what happens.
Holmes is recruited by his brother, Mycroft, to look into some rather brutal murders that have taken place in the neighborhood of Rotherhithe. People have been torn apart by what looks to have been a pack of wildly disparate animals, from sharks to lions and whatnot. Mycroft connects this to the researches of Dr. Moreau who has conveniently disappeared. Holmes and Watson are now on the case.
The plot is simple; there are few, if any, red herrings; and the end result is, of course, the culminating battle between the forces of good led by Holmes and the forces of evil that forms Dr. Moreau’s army of the title. It’s an adventurous romp, not a masterpiece of Victorian deduction — a pulp tale, but a relatively fun one at that. —Mark Rose