A Study in Brimstone (Warlock Holmes #1) by G.S. Denning

Weirdly, given how I love and devour mystery novels, I have never really been into reading Sherlock pastiches. For that matter, I’ve never been a huge fan of the source material, having read the originals only insofar as they were available to me in the library of a paternal uncle whom my family visited in my father’s hometown once a year. Books being much scarcer for me then than now, I would usually read whatever was available to me whenever it was available, and would store the locations of books like a pirate carrying a mental map of buried treasures (and never mind actually socializing.) So reading Sherlock Holmes, for me, carries a visceral memory of sun-warmed concrete blocks, sliding glass doors on rattan bookshelves and the old, almost sepia pages of a Penguin Classics volume that I read as I tried not to fall asleep in the heat of a Malaccan afternoon. Perhaps it was this perpetual drowsiness that made it so difficult to fully appreciate Holmes’ deductive powers, or his and Watson’s feats of derring-do: all I remember from my reading was how very unlikely their adventures felt, but how much more interesting than trying to make small talk with much older relatives whom I barely knew.

Anyway, the main reason I’ve been so lukewarm over most modern continuations of Sherlock Holmes’ adventures in print is that they are entirely faithful to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s tone as I remember it: crushingly serious in the face of events that are implausible at best. Enter G. S. Denning. Not only does he make his Holmes a literal Warlock, amping up the supernatural (and in my opinion, most interesting) aspect of the original stories to eleven, but he also serves up a healthy dose of humor and strips the insufferable aura of self-importance almost completely from his subject. It’s a breath of fresh air and, frankly, the only time but one in all my enjoyment of Sherlock-related media that I’ve felt compelled to go back and look up the source material (the exception being Kitty Winters in the excellent Elementary TV series. My reluctance to consume Sherlockiana is mostly confined to reading, as modern dramatizations tend to add humor and humanization.)

Watson is the true deductive hero of Mr Denning’s A Study In Brimstone, which reimagines six classic Sherlock stories as overtly supernatural cases that fall neatly under Warlock’s purview. The hijinks feel refreshed and the references renew my interest in reading the originals, which is some of the highest praise I can give to any homage. I love the twist with Moriarty, and am very interested in reading more of the character introduced in the very last story included here. Excitingly, I’ll be able to read the next two volumes quite quickly, courtesy of Titan Press. Reviews of those soon!

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