From the title alone, one can surmise that this short story is a pastiche of a Sherlock Holmes canon, set in an alternate reality. Brilliantly written, it rightly matches the original with its Victorian vocabulary and idioms. And deservingly, it won the Hugo Award in 2004 for Best Short Story.
Still, there was much to pique my curiosity…
He was a mystery to me.
The identities of both narrator and his friend was not fully disclosed, although it was hinted that the narrator was a veteran soldier stationed in Afghanistan, and his eccentric companion is a highly-regarded consultant for Scotland Yard.
I am a rational man, but I have learned the value of a good companion, and from the moment I clapped eyes on you, I knew I trusted you as well as I do myself. Yes, I want you with me.
They are called away to investigate the murder of a German noble closely related to the Albion royalty. The story took a dramatic shift from here. Soon enough they are summoned in the presence of Queen Victoria, the glorious being who ruled the country for seven hundred years. Charged to find the culprit, both men engaged subterfuge and danger.
For there are those who do not believe that the coming of the Old Ones was the fine thing we all know it to be. Anarchists to a man, they would see the old ways restored –mankind in control of its own destiny, if you will.
Readers will be held in awe on how Neil Gaiman fluidly merged the horrific myths of the Old Ones into the plot. Alternately, advertisements were inserted throughout this newsletter-type article; depicting Vlad Tepes, Dr. Jekyll, Spring-heeled Jack, and Victor Frankenstein as questionable entrepreneurs, rather than famous villains.
If there’s one thing that a study of history has taught us, it is that things can always get worse.
The story is brief, but cleverly peppered with allusions which Sherlock Holmes fans will not surely miss.
Printed in Fragile Things, and New Cthulhu: The Recent Weird
Rating: 5 stars