In a debut novel that cheerfully pokes fun at the Holmes-ian canon, Denning introduces readers to Warlock Holmes, a supernaturally gifted counterpart to the famous consulting detective of 221B Baker St.
When an acquaintance introduced Dr. John Watson to a tall, thin, and very strange man with the surname of Holmes, an endless world of famous cases and archetypal details stretched out from their meeting. Spinoffs and pastiches are numerous, but Denning’s take on these beloved characters is unusual and charming. This Holmes and Watson inhabit a gleefully weird Victorian London and work their way through six cases including a bizarre version of A Study in Scarlet called “A Study in Brimstone,” in which the identification of a murderer hinges on an abandoned pastry wrapper and the reader is introduced to Inspector Vladislav Lestrade, a detective at Scotland Yard and a vampire. Though Warlock Holmes shares some of the trappings of his famous progenitor, he is a spectacularly incompetent detective. He relies on occult powers, exchanges with demons, and the cryptic speeches of the mysterious, disembodied Moriarty, who occasionally possesses him. Watson is the one who revels in skills of observation and deduction, discovering a passion for reason and a love of the chase. The characters are so likable that they can pause their absurd antics to contemplate prejudice and privilege without missing a beat or falling out of their outrageous world. Denning has a knack for smooth writing that carries the action along and a keen sense for how to set up a joke. He imagines his world with gusto, lavishing the reader with hilarious details like Holmes’ accordion playing and a gang of Baker Street Irregulars made up of horrifying were-rats.
A reimagining of Sherlock Holmes that is often very silly but consistently funny, clever, and entertaining.