Thursday, July 28, 2016
The White Worm!
The White Worm by Sam Siciliano is the fourth to date in Titan Books series The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. It's the shortest of the four I believe and that's to its immediate benefit as the others are rather bloated affairs in the final analysis. The previous entries are The Angel of the Opera, The Web Weaver, and The Grimswell Curse.
Once again we have the story told not by Dr. John Watson, but by Dr. Henry Vernier who purports to give us a more human presentation of the great detective. Actually by this fourth volume I find myself getting very tired of Vernier's somewhat pompous opinions and his rather constant reflections on sex. He's a married man and that's fine, but he's a bit of horndog and his desires are discussed more than I'd deem necessary to develop the mystery.
Siciliano this time has again attempted to fold Sherlock into a mystery from another literary source. He did this with The Angel and the Opera where he stuck Holmes into the middle of Gaston Leroux's novel of the Phantom. Here he plunders Bram Stoker's weird novel The Lair of the White Worm. I rather enjoyed the Stoker adventure and have a higher opinion of it than does Siciliano. Still I do agree it's a great setting for a Sherlock mystery.
The social dogma coming under scrutiny this time are Victorian notions of sex, particularly the lack of sex education given to youngsters so that they might approach their sex lives with some degree of understanding and with less fear and loathing. A noble idea, but like the previous obsessions with corsets and giant anatomy, the lectures get tiresome. But there does seem to be less of it here.
Sherlock is engaged by a young man of wealth to help him get to the bottom (quite literally as it turns out) of a mystery around his home which concerns an ancient cult and the devilish dragon/worm they worship. He wants assistance with that and help with the woman he loves, but for whom he feels less than capable of successfully bedding. While Sherlock uncovers the secrets of the cult, Vernier operates as a guidance counselor to the two youngsters giving them advice, backed up by his wife who shows up too, about a healthy marriage, one not necessarily built on the Victorian notions of pain and suffering.
We get to meet some real characters this time, a libertine lady who wanders around in the buff and constantly makes randy recommendations and a local pseudo-scientist who is positively insane. Death is close at hand at all times as are lots of snakes and other weird creatures. The weirdness does peter out though a bit sooner than the narrative and again the mystery seems not to be the primary concern, an odd choice for Holmes pastiche.