“The Devil and the Four” is the latest Sherlock Holmes written by Sam Siciliano for Titan Books. Sicililano has created his own narrator and companion for Holmes in the shape of Dr. Henry Vernier, who also happens to be the detective’s distant cousin. Vernier is married to one of the few female physicians of Victorian London, and Michelle Vernier also has her turn at regaling the reader with her share of this story.
Holmes and Vernier are asked to look for a wife who mysteriously went off to France after receiving the clipping of an obituary of an artist that also had rather ominous inscription that proclaimed “Four for the Devil”.
The novel has a promising enough start, however it starts to sputter quite a bit after the protagonists get to Paris, which is a disappointment in a Sherlock Holmes novel. Vernier is one of these more sensitive types and misses his wife terribly, which is laudable, but gets a bit exasperating at times when trying to enjoy a new Holmes tale. I prefer the companions of such a unique personage to be all in. Saying that, I rather like Michelle generally. Vernier also has a few moments heroism. His loyalty to Holmes is quite impressive and at times moving. The Verniers bring an interesting dynamic at times, but the style of storytelling sometimes keeps me from enjoying it fully
Sherlock Holmes is reunited with a woman who apparently was introduced in an earlier Siciliano piece that I have yet to read. I don’t really remember a Violet Wheelwright anyway. She and Holmes have a strong attraction for each other, which isn’t really without interest. Of course, Violet is dubbed the female Sherlock Holmes since she has chosen to utilize her own gifts of perception to women of Paris who are facing some strange and desperate situation.
This novel has many irksome tendencies that have been cropping up among the works of many of these Holmes pastiche writer. Once again, elements of the supernatural are hinted at. The original creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, had a couple of stories with that bent, but only a couple. The reader gets to hear again how Holmes is opposed to the notion of otherworldly forces being at the root of men’s evil deeds. Holmes is apparently more compassionate and romantic than characterized in the original stories. I thought I would get through this book without Siciliano throwing some shade on Dr. John Watson, Holmes’s usual chronicler, but alas, he snuck a couple in there. Reading Siciliano’s take on Watson, I would have to wonder why Holmes even bothered having him alone in the other adventures. I wish I knew if Siciliano had some dislike for Watson or is this all some joke I am not fully appreciating. I don’t necessarily mind Siciliano creating a new companion for Holmes, but I wish he would dial back the rancor toward Watson.
The novel wasn’t really awful, but it was disappointingly average. The ending seemed to be unnecessarily protracted. I like a good robust Sherlock Holmes novel for the most part, but I am also in favor of keeping the story moving and Holmes being a bit more in line with how Doyle presented him.
The next indulgence will be very different from my usual literary pleasures with “She’s Come Undone” by Wally Lamb.