Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Adventure Of The Sanguinary Count!

Loren D. Estleman's pastiche pits Sherlock Holmes against the other late Victorian literary superstar Dracula. It's a natural pairing, done many times over the years. Estleman's rendition was produced in the late 70's with an eye on film production, and it shows.

The story begins vigorously enough as Sherlock is called in by a local Whitby reporter concerning the mysterious arrival of the Demeter. The ship, steered by its dead captain roped to the wheel, proves a proper mystery for the Sherlock methods. Add in a mysterious dog seen bounding off the boat and a missing crew and you have all the elements.

But Sherlock and Watson are called off the case, but some time later find themselves investigating the "Bloofer Lady", a figure in white associated with some injured children. Soon enough we see that Sherlock is thinking supernaturally when the famous pair encounter Professor Van Helsing and his gang of vampire killers at the tomb of Lucy Westerna.

Later still the powerful force calling himself Dracula makes himself known to Sherlock and Watson and the game is properly afoot.

But as enticing as these elements are they ultimately fail to congeal into a proper whole. We are led to believer that the role that Sherlock played in the ultimate defeat of Dracula was extirpated from the Bram Stoker narrative at the request of the ego-driven Van Helsing, so the story we have here is mostly the one Stoker relates through the assembled letters and journals, but with sidebars in which Holmes and Watson can fit.

The stirring beginning comes mostly to naught as while Sherlock is able to forestall Dracula's stratagems in some regards, he is uncharacteristically unmoved to follow the threat through, choosing rather to allow Van Helsing's mob handle the mop up. It leaves the story with an unfinished feel. It's clever but a bit overcooked in places.

Also Estleman insists on making specific references to sundry previous canon stories by Doyle which become tedious after a dozen or so. It's nice to see the story is supposed to be inside the larger Holmes frame, but being overt about it makes the story feel a bit fannish.

Overall Sherlock Holmes Vs. Dracula is a dandy romp with a great beginning and an ending which seems all to full of adrenalin and not intellect.

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