THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES: SÉANCE FOR A VAMPIRE By Fred Saberhagen – Reviewed

What could be better? The world’s greatest detective and vampires. In fact, better than just your average vampire, Dracula himself.

The story starts in 1765 at a pirate hanging, told to us by Prince Dracula himself, in the prologue.

The story proper starts with the irascible Dr Watson’s narration as he and the great detective are requested to attend a séance where a wealthy family’s eldest daughter has previously been conjured. Their daughter died weeks ago of drowning while out with her fiancé and sister.

So far so good.

Saberhagen has Watson’s style down pretty good, and the story rolls along in the traditional style. But somewhere towards the middle of the book things begin to go awry.

The book switches narrator between Watson and Dracula, which far from adding to the story, is jarring and confusing. There is some overlap between the stories being told, and there is the constant “I, Dracula take over the story” every time there is a change, which grates. At times both narrators use the third person to describe themselves, adding to the confusion.

Holmes is a facsimile, a mere name, without any of the characteristic genius, the clever detection, or humour of the original. Dracula, although an aristocrat, was never a gentleman. Beneath his suave exterior lies the rotting heart of monster. Even at his best he is a creepy and chilly individual. Not so here, Dracula rivals Watson for pompous Victorian etiquette.

Despite the ruinous use of two of my favourite characters, I persevered to the end, only to find one of the weakest climaxes in the history of the novel, and everything tied up so easily it hardly felt worth the effort, without any ingenuity or integrity.

Although I have savaged, quite comprehensively, this book, I still found myself enjoying some small parts of it. It is after all, Dracula and Holmes, even if they are poor copies.

This could have been such a brilliant book, perhaps my expectations were too high, or perhaps this book doesn’t deserve the name of Holmes associated with it. I might try another in the series to check, but this definitely does not live up to the originals.

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