More refurbished repostings of reviews that first appeared on soon-to-be-defunct site Nerds in Babeland.
I’m a Sherlockian nerd of the first water–I’ve read the Doyle stories countless times, adore the Brett and the Cumberbatch versions of him, and love researching all about the culture surrounding the phenomenon. One thing Sherlockian I’ve never been able to abide, however, is Holmes stories written in that time and world, not written by Doyle (the BBC series is an exception, but it’s not Victorian, you see). I do this canon-snob thing with Star Wars too. Okay, maybe I enjoyed The Seven Per Cent Solution marginally. But I digress.
Guy Adams’ new Sherlock Holmes novel, The Army of Dr. Moreau, may be nearly an exception to this rule of mine. Nearly.
I do enjoy literature that plays with remix, however, like the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Hellboy, and Kim Newman’s vampire novels. Adams’ new book does a great job with this fun admixture of Holmes and Moreau (of course narrated by Watson as all good Holmes stories are), but by also adding in such illustrious Victorian fantastic fiction cast members as Professor Lindenbrook, Professor Challenger, Abner Perry, Edward Prendick, and Professor Cavor. This makes for some delightful literary Easter egg hunting, but doesn’t just throw these characters all in there just to hear the fangirls squee, like Star Wars Episode 1. No, these characters are all vital, and all make perfect sense in their roles as the mystery of the hybrid animals unravels. Oh come now, the title has Moreau in it, it’s not like that’s a spoiler.
Most of this book is just the right combination of mystery and action that Doyle would be proud of, and mostly in Watson’s (very authentic) voice. It’s a lot of fun to hear his meta complaints about how difficult it is working with editors, and that rabid fans are the worst editors of all. It’s also fun to hear more of Watson’s emotional reaction to Holmes being, well, Holmes–he gets rightfully angry and frustrated with him more than once, and more than societally correct Doyle would have written him. But it’s not so un-Doyle-ish that we nerds can’t read it and suspend our disbelief. It’s a thrilling mystery, and in fact quite an intricate plot. Until.
Until Part 6, the last section of this book, which is where the quality of it as a Holmes book falls way short. This section suddenly is told in even shorter bursts than the already short chapters, from every character’s POV. It’s apparent why we are not in Watson’s POV exclusively at that point in the story, but to jump from character to character is just too jarring, and doesn’t have anything in the way of consistency with the rest of the book. If we had stayed in Holmes’ POV during our non-Watson time, that would have been more in keeping with the tone and style of the rest of the book, but the POV jumps are too much. Also, the way in which the story concludes just seems too unrealistic, especially compared with the intricacy of the rest of the story. I don’t want to spoil the end for you, so I’ll just say that a certain character does something which I don’t buy, and it basically concludes the book. It’s too simple, over the top, and frankly feels rushed. It’s such a fun, great book until then!
Bottom Line: Sherlock Holmes, the Army of Dr. Moreau is a fun addition to any Holmes fan’s library. I just wanted more from the ending.