Published by Titan Books
Titan has been printing the “Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” for some time now, but this is the first time they’ve published an all new adventure. While the reprints were solid, fun Holmes fiction for the most part, The Breath of God blows them all out of the water.
At an incredibly lean 224 pages, newcomer Guy Adams screams out a rollicking horror-filled adventure featuring the world’s greatest detective. He skips a few details in the urgency of the tale, but the final result is a very enjoyable alternate-past read.
Holmes and Watson are contacted by one Doctor Silence, a physician who dabbles in the supernatural. A young socialite has been killed in a very peculiar way: as if he’d been crushed by a giant fist. Silence claims that he’s been contacted with a list including that dead man’s name, followed by two others: Sherlock Holmes and the Laird of Boleskine. Many of you will recognize that title, it’s one used by an infamous figure in the history of Britain: Aleister Crowley, the so-called “wickedest man on the world”.
Reluctant to believe any supernatural power is involved in the case, Holmes agrees to join the chase when a rich British Lord is murdered in another mysterious way. Before long, the chase is joined by demonologist Julian Karswell and paranormal detective Thomas Carnacki as the entire British empire is threatened by forces that only Crowley seems to understand.
The only misstep this novel takes is one taken by a couple of the other “Further Adventures” books: Holmes steps out of the action for much of the second act of the novel. As I’ve posited before, it seems as if these authors are gun-shy of tackling too much Holmes so they send him away so they can focus on his less-cherished companion before bringing the great detective back for the finale. The crime here is much less than in other books which have committed it, simple because it’s such a lean tale. Due to the brevity of the story, Holmes can really only be gone so long as nothing takes a great deal of time. There is no fat here at all, no dawdling. The story could be converted to film and not breach the two-hour mark without any editing of content.
Some of you may have recognized the additional characters from other fiction. Those who did not, suffice to say that Adams uses the same device as Kim Newman in his genius work Anno Dracula (review here) and mixes historical figures with borrowed characters from older written works to create a new adventure. Thankfully, his efforts nearly match the brilliance of Newman’s masterpiece. By taking the truth of Crowley, the fiction of Silence, Karswell, and Carnacki, and the personalities of Holmes and Watson, he’s created a great story with unexpected twists and turns.
This is highly recommended, and I can’t wait to see more from Adams and Titan. I encourage the latter to continue soliciting original stories of Holmes if this is the quality we can expect from them. The reprints have been good; this is much better than we deserve.
4 1/2 out of 5