Book Review: ‘Sherlock Holmes: The Army of Dr. Moreau’

Army of Dr MoreauAuthor: Guy Adams

Publisher: Titan

Plot: Holmes and Watson are once again recruited by Mycroft to deal with a decidedly delicate situation. Reports of bodies mauled by animals in London are linked to the experiments of the maniacal and presumed deceased Doctor Moreau.
Review: To say that there’s a resurgence in interest in the world’s most famous detective would be a very obvious thing. With the new popularity buoyed by the modern day interpretation on the BBC there comes a flood of new stories from a range of sources. Fortunately Adams has already had his thumb in the Baker Street pie, so this new novel does not come across as being on the bandwagon.

Adams writes this tale in the format used by Conan Doyle in that it is presented as an account of the case written by John Watson (although he frequently comments that it would not be published, fitting it in nicely with canon). There’s a bit of cheating when Holmes takes up the pen later in the piece, but it’s better than trying to reinvent the wheel. Although Adams doesn’t do a perfect job of (excuse the pun) aping the style of Conan Doyle, and the novel feels like Holmes told from a modern psychological perspective, he does perform the task better than most writers who take on the task of working with one of literature’s most famous figures.

Having tackled Sherlock Holmes vs the supernatural in his previous novel (‘The Breath of God’) this pits Holmes against something that would look at home in a horror film. Doctor Moreau makes the leap from the pages of H.G. Wells and is joined by other fictional characters, most prominently Professor Challenger. The action is grisly from the get-go with heavily mutilated bodies turning up. Those familiar with the famous Wells’ character should know what to expect from Dr. Moreau and it isn’t long before the hybrids start turning up. The action escalates in between the investigations being conducted with the Prime Minister being kidnapped and Holmes leading a team of hunters, professors and a dog-headed hybrid into the sewers for an appropriately explosive finale.

For a Holmes book there’s not very much actual deduction to be had. There’s a plot twist, sure, but the classic tropes of the series are mainly set-dressing. Instead this is a very pulpy take on the classic (fitting since the adventures of the detective started life as pulp) mixed with imaginative horror elements. If you have a Sherlock Holmes stick up your butt then the reworking of the format and introduction of the fantasy elements might rub you the wrong way. If you want to see Holmes and Watson pit their wits against a bunch of ravenous animal/human monsters then you’ll have a blast.

On a random note, there is a moment late in the piece where Holmes declares that evolution will never defeat intelligence. No doubt I’m reading too far into this for comedic purposes, but I had no idea that Sherlock was a supporter of intelligent design.