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Steampunk and Sociopaths, Sherlock Holmes: The Stuff of Nightmares

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Sherlock Holmes: The Stuff of Nightmares, the new novel from New York Times best-selling author James Lovegrove, begins with a bang. Dr. John Watson prepares to board a train at Waterloo Station in London when a bomb explodes, killing and injuring many.  After assisting the injured, Watson returns to Holmes to discuss the case. Holmes seems uninterested in the case; he is caught up in the rumors of an armored vigilante. The elusive Baron Cauchemar roams the shady streets of lower class London, stopping crimes and punishing those responsible. Though he has killed no one, the criminals of London are terrified. Watson is send on a mission to find the elusive Baron. During their investigation they come face to face with the Vitcomte de Villegrand; a rake who has tastes leaning towards the prepubescent. After goading him into a fight, Sherlock realizes that de Villegrand is not disciplined enough to be Baron Cauchemar. The bombings continue with a blast near the palace. After nearly being killed in the collapse of an old church, Sherlock and Watson come face to face with the Baron who gives them only basic information regarding himself and what he plans to do. Baron Cauchemar doses them with a chemical to make them forget and then leaves them in a safe place. Watson and Sherlock quickly discover that de Villegrand, Cauchemar and the bombings are connected, and must rush to save the life of the Queen before she is the victim of a bomb attack.

Lovegrove chooses to use quite a bit of steam power in this novel. For the lover of both steampunk and Sherlock Holmes, this blend of a book is a dream come true. From guns that shoot a liquid to stop criminals in their tracks, to air ships and giant steam powered monsters, Lovegrove creates a believable world of steam and mystery. The bits of technology blend well with the industrial revolution backdrop. Baron Cauchemar’s name literally translates to nightmare. His storyline is convoluted and his characters realistic, but always involving a splash of steam-powered technology or apparatus.

One issue that I have with the story is the use of rape as a plot device. While Lovegrove uses the rape of Baron Cauchemar’s former love, Delphine, to show the reasoning behind his hatred for the Vitcomte de Villegrand, it feels painfully unnecessary and uncomfortable. Delphine is raped so badly that she dies; this was more than excessive and as a reader I found myself almost discarding the book at this point.

Sherlock Holmes: The Stuff of Nightmares is an entertaining adaptation of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle series, using famous characters and important points. The book stays mostly in cannon and even features a cameo from Sherlock’s most dangerous enemy; Professor Moriarty. I recommend the book as a good end of summer read, but be warned that it is not something a reader would likely enjoy on a train ride through London.

Sherlock Holmes: The Stuff of Nightmares is available from Amazon and book stores now.

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