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James Lovegrove's Sherlock Holmes #4

Sherlock Holmes & the Christmas Demon

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The new Sherlock Holmes novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Age of Odin and Firefly - Big Damn Hero.

It is 1890, and in the days before Christmas Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson are visited at Baker Street by a new client. Eve Allerthorpe - eldest daughter of a grand but somewhat eccentric Yorkshire-based dynasty - is greatly distressed, as she believes she is being haunted by a demonic Christmas spirit.

Her late mother told her terrifying tales of the sinister Black Thurrick, and Eve is sure that she has seen the creature from her bedroom window. What is more, she has begun to receive mysterious parcels of birch twigs, the Black Thurrick's calling card...

Eve stands to inherit a fortune if she is sound in mind, but it seems that something - or someone - is threatening her sanity. Holmes and Watson travel to the Allerthorpe family seat at Fellscar Keep to investigate, but soon discover that there is more to the case than at first appeared. There is another spirit haunting the family, and when a member of the household is found dead, the companions realise that no one is beyond suspicion.

375 pages, Hardcover

First published October 29, 2019

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About the author

James Lovegrove

130 books488 followers
James Lovegrove is the author of several acclaimed novels and books for children.

James was born on Christmas Eve 1965 and, having dabbled in writing at school, first took to it seriously while at university. A short story of his won a college competition. The prize was £15, and it had cost £18 to get the story professionally typed. This taught him a hard but necessary lesson in the harsh economic realities of a literary career.

Straight after graduating from Oxford with a degree in English Literature, James set himself the goal of getting a novel written and sold within two years. In the event, it took two months. The Hope was completed in six weeks and accepted by Macmillan a fortnight later. The seed for the idea for the novel — a world in microcosm on an ocean liner — was planted during a cross-Channel ferry journey.

James blew his modest advance for The Hope on a round-the-world trip which took him to, among other places, Thailand. His experiences there, particularly what he witnessed of the sex industry in Bangkok, provided much of the inspiration for The Foreigners.

Escardy Gap was co-written with Pete Crowther over a period of a year and a half, the two authors playing a game of creative tag, each completing a section in turn and leaving the other to carry the story on. The result has proved a cult favourite, and was voted by readers of SFX one of the top fifty SF/Fantasy novels of all time.

Days, a satire on consumerism, was shortlisted for the 1998 Arthur C. Clarke Award (losing to Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow). The book’s genesis most probably lies in the many visits James used to make as a child to the Oxford Street department store owned by his grandfather. It was written over a period of nine months while James was living in the north-west suburbs of Chicago.

Subsequent works have all been published to great acclaim. These include Untied Kingdom, Worldstorm, Provender Gleed, The Age Of Ra and the back-to-back double-novella Gig. James has also written for children. Wings, a short novel for reluctant readers, was short-listed for several awards, while his fantasy series for teens, The Clouded World, written under the pseudonym Jay Amory, has been translated into 7 other languages so far. A five-book series for reluctant readers, The 5 Lords Of Pain, is appearing at two-monthly intervals throughout 2010.

He also reviews fiction for the Financial Times, specialising in the Young Adult, children’s, science fiction, fantasy, horror and graphic novel genres.

Currently James resides in Eastbourne on the Sussex Coast, having moved there in August 2007 with his wife Lou, sons Monty and Theo, and cat Ozzy. He has a terrific view of the sea from his study window, which he doesn’t sit staring out at all day when he should be working. Honest.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 352 reviews
Profile Image for Julie .
3,989 reviews58.9k followers
December 3, 2019
Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon by James Lovegrove is a 2019 Titan publication.

A fun, clever, holiday mystery- Holmes & Watson style!

I have not read any of the previous Holmes & Watson mysteries written by James Lovegrove. I was a little wary about a new Sherlock Holmes mystery, written by someone other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, to be honest.

However, after indulging in my usual heartwarming and saccharine sweet holiday romances, I was looking for a good holiday murder mystery, when this book popped up on my radar. For the most part the book has received positive feedback- so I decided to give it a try.

The story examines the darker side of Christmas folklore. We all know about Santa Claus or Father Christmas, but apparently these jolly souls have evil counterpoints- or opposites- for example:

Black Thurrick, who is also said to make an appearance during the Christmas holidays, punishing children by replacing their gifts with batches of Birch Twigs.

Holmes and Watson are hired by Eve Allerthorpe to investigate the ghostly happenings at her estate, after she believes she witnessed the demon Thurrick. Not only that, Thurrick’s hallmark calling card of Birch twigs were found outside of doors or windows on occasion.

The hitch is that dear Eve is about to come into a healthy sum of money, just so long as she is deemed of sound mind. Witnessing demonic apparitions might cause one to question her sanity, which is why Holmes & Watson need to get to the bottom of things before Eve loses her inheritance- or worse- is institutionalized.

Although Eve’s family is less than welcoming, Sherlock Holmes brushes off his chilly reception and gets right down to work. What ensues is a puzzling mystery, with several nice red herrings, and some truly wonderful dialogue between Holmes and Watson.

Although Lovegrove does occasionally satirize Holmes’ uncanny powers of observation and embellishes and exaggerates his and Watson’s relationship, a bit here and there, I think the author is very sincere and takes his task very seriously. He obviously respects these classic characters and does them justice.

I thought the author did a good job with this mystery, which kept me guessing and thoroughly entertained. I suspect Lovegrove enjoyed breathing new life into the Sherlock Holmes mystery series and I for one truly enjoyed reading it!

4 stars
Profile Image for Sean Gibson.
Author 6 books5,653 followers
December 4, 2020
There are two types of Sherlock Holmes readers: those who really enjoy big butts and those who lie about how much they enjoy big butts.

But, you can further subclassify Holmes readers based on their tolerance, or lack thereof, for the presence of supernatural chicanery. There are those, and perhaps it’s the majority, who disdain the spiritual and that when it comes to the great detective and ghosts, never the twain shall meet. There are those, however—myself included—who count Hound of the Baskervilles as the greatest story in the canon and are comfortable with our bedeerstalkered hero butting heads with the arcane, or, at least, the possibility of the arcane. For those in the latter camp with me, this book will be a pure delight.

While there are no actual supernatural shenanigans here—unlike in, say, the equally delightful The Revenant of Thraxton Hall: The Paranormal Casebooks of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle—The Christmas Demon abounds with the suggestion of paranormal activity, and it’s up to Holmes and Watson to get to the heart of it against the backdrop of a creepy old manor and some very misty moors.

Lovegrove spins a ripping yarn, full of exactly the kinds of details you’d expect to find in a Holmes story that teases a ghostly interloper, takes place at a creepy old remote manor house, and features Watson having one too many drinks at dinner. Sure, there’s a little campiness here and there, but I’ll be deuced if that’s not part of the fun.

Exactly the kind of story I wanted to read at exactly the right time, and this will be by no means my last go-round with Mr. Lovegrove’s Holmesian adventures. Join me, my friends—you won’t be disappointed.
Profile Image for Shreyas Deshpande.
148 reviews11 followers
December 30, 2021
The exact type of fun read you would expect from a Holmes book. Reference to the supernatural world, creepy old castle and Watson. I will definitely explore more from this author.

109 reviews1 follower
January 3, 2021
Lovegrove is superb at bringing us new Holmes and Watson detection! I loved this book and am now getting a couple more.
Profile Image for Rachel (TheShadesofOrange).
1,959 reviews2,671 followers
December 28, 2022
4.0 stars
This was such a cozy, fun Sherlock Holmes mystery. I particularly enjoyed the wintery Christmas setting which made for a perfect winter read. This makes me really want to read the original Sherlock Holmes stories.
Profile Image for TS Chan.
691 reviews851 followers
January 2, 2022
What an engaging and fun read! The writing maintained a semblance of Sir Conan Doyle's style which I found to be most delightfully witty and decidedly English - which I loved.
Profile Image for The Tattooed Book Geek (Drew). .
296 reviews615 followers
October 13, 2019
As always this review can also be found on my blog The Tattooed Book Geek: https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress...

It is late December 1890, Eve’s Allerthorpe’s birthday is fast approaching and on Christmas eve she will turn twenty-one-years-old. On her birthday she will inherit a sizeable fortune left to her by her aunt…but only if she is found to be of sound mind. If, however, Eve is found to not be of sound mind then the inheritance will be divided and spread equally between other family members.

Every year for Christmas the Allerthorpe’s host a gathering with their extended family coming from far and wide to celebrate the festive season at their family home of Fellscar Keep, an isolated castle located in East Riding, Yorkshire.

Fellscar Keep has a history and the local area is steeped in folklore, myth and local legend. One such local legend is that of the ‘Black Thurrick’ an evil entity, the dark to the light and an anti-father Christmas. The Black Thurrick replaces the benevolence and goodwill of Father Christmas with malevolence and ill will. The Black Thurrick removes the toys of those children who have been bad and exchanges them with bundles of birch twigs. And, if an offering isn’t left out for the Black Thurrick then, the Black Thurrick will steal the children of the household, take them back to its underground lair and eat them.

When she was a child, alongside her younger brother, Eve’s mother used to regale the two children with tales of the Black Thurrick, a tale told to scare the children into being good and one that has been etched in Eve’s memory. Now, nearing Christmas and Eve’s birthday bundles of birch twigs are being left around Fellscar Keep. In the dark of the night, mysterious noises are being heard emanating from the east wing of the castle. And Eve, herself, by the glow of moonlight has glimpsed a figure resembling the countenance of the sinister Black Thurrick walking across the frozen lake late at night.

With no-one else to turn to, Eve travels to London where she asks Holmes and Watson for aid, for their help in the hope that they will be able to uncover the truth behind the strange occurrences that are plaguing both her and Fellscar keep. To add to matters, while Holmes and Watson are at Fellscar Keep investigating the tale of the Black Thurrick things take on a more serious tone when one of the household is found dead under suspicious circumstances.

The folklore is well incorporated and adds an ominous air to the story. Deep in winter Fellscar Keep is gripped by the coldness of the season with snow blanketing the area and the setting is very atmospheric. The gloomy, expansive and secluded Fellscar Keep, a castle on an island in the middle of a lake, joined to the land by a causeway, surrounded by a forest and miles away from the nearest village.

There’s a vigour to the storytelling, a zeal to the writing and you can tell that Lovegrove has a genuine love for the iconic duo in his work. The mystery doesn’t disappoint, neither does the setting, the characters, the deductions, the twists or the denouement of the investigation. It is all cleverly plotted, honours and serves to pay homage to the characters of Holmes and Watson by once more bringing them to life in a gripping and highly entertaining mystery that captures the era perfectly and feels deeply reminiscent of a classic Holmes tale.

I really liked the actual ending with Lovegrove ending things with some festive cheer done in a very Holmesesque way. It felt like a fitting end and leaves you with a smile upon your face.

Simply, Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon was an absolute joy to read.
Profile Image for Timothy Urgest.
468 reviews258 followers
December 25, 2022
Holidays with Holmes and Watson. Something creeps in the night leaving bundles of twigs and dread in its wake.

I am not the biggest Holmes fan, but for those out there that are, this should fit the bill for what you desire from a Sherlock adventure.
Profile Image for Eon ♒Windrunner♒  .
418 reviews453 followers
December 27, 2021
A delightful entry in the Sherlock Holmes -verse. Well written and entertaining throughout, the story left me wanting more of the same and that's always a good indicator of time well spent.
Profile Image for Austra.
588 reviews69 followers
November 17, 2022
Labs stāsts, ar ko iesākt gatavošanos svētku sezonai. Dažas dienas pirms Ziemassvētkiem Holmsu un Vatsonu uzrunā jauna dāma no smalkas ģimenes. Viņa ir ļoti noraizējusies, jo - vai nu viņai rēgojas Ziemassvētku ļaunais gars (Melnais Turiks) vai kāds viņu mēģina iebaidīt un, cerams, novest līdz nervu sabrukumam, lai jaunkundze tiktu atzīta par nepieskaitāmu un nevarētu saņemt viņai pienākošos paprāvo mantojumu. Ja jūs zināt Holmsu, tad zināt arī, ka viņš nekādiem pesteļiem netic.

Šis bija īstais gabals īstajā brīdī. Lasot šo sapratu, ka man riktīgi piedur ziemas stāsti, kas notiek lielās, vecās, smalkās mājās ar kaudzi dīvainu, vēlams, slepkavniecisku un kaislībām pārņemtu radinieku. Much fun!
Profile Image for Clare.
943 reviews9 followers
December 12, 2019
Now I haven't read any Sherlock books since I was younger and they were Conan Doyle ones which I loved. I was a bit dubious about reading this as I didn't think anything could come close to his, but I was very pleasantly surprised by this book. I throughly enjoyed it and loved how I was transported to back in time. The characters were so descriptive and the story was so well written. I have gone on to reserve a few of his others and cant wait to get my hands on them.
Profile Image for Bruce Hatton.
452 reviews59 followers
January 22, 2020
Eve Allerthorpe, daughter of a wealthy dysfunctional Yorkshire family, enlists the help of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. She believes her family home, a large ugly and remote Gothic castle called Felscar Keep is haunted by a demonic Christmas spirit called Black Thurrick – a sort of anti-Santa.
Although, of course, Holmes dismisses such supernatural mumbo-jumbo, he does suspect that something criminal is afoot. His suspicion is endorsed when, soon after he and Watson arrive at Felscar Keep, a member of staff there is found dead.
For the most part, the author did manage to get the settings and period details spot on; although, at one point, he did refer to a land area in hectares, rather than the old imperial measurement of acres, which would have been used then. Despite that small anomaly, the narrative did seem authentic and the character portrayals of Holmes and Watson didn’t deviate from Conan-Doyle’s originals.
Of course, by the end, after many twists and turns, Holmes manages to solve the whole case, just in time to get back home for Christmas. In all, a light but very enjoyable read.
Profile Image for Lisa.
191 reviews22 followers
December 9, 2021
What a de*light*! Best enjoyed with a cosy blanket and hot beverage of choice.
Profile Image for Mary Pagones.
Author 13 books89 followers
March 3, 2020
A delightfully easy read, and happily for a Christmas hater like myself, there's not too much about the holiday, except at the beginning and the end. I didn't read it around the holiday season, so I would recommend it as a great book for any cold time of the year.

Lovegrove gets the banter between Holmes and Watson just right. It's not a particularly edgy take on the relationship, but warm and compassionate, and the mystery is suitably atmospheric while still being true to the spirit of the canon. Along with Bonnie MacBird, he's rapidly becoming one of my favorite pastiche authors writing today. Lovegrove's Holmes and Watson are much more of the action hero types (which is true of many modern takes, I think thanks to the influence of the RDJ films). This isn't really a puzzle mystery, more of an adventure book, but feels authentic because of the detail devoted to the personalities of Holmes and Watson.
Profile Image for Lorraine.
1,174 reviews17 followers
December 29, 2022
Arthur Conan Doyle lovers have no fear in taking the plunge into James Lovegrove’s world of Sherlock Holmes and read the holiday mystery ‘Sherlock Holmes & the Christmas Demon’, you will be pleasantly surprised at how much you enjoy it. (P.S. we won’t tell Arthur. ;). )
Profile Image for Deepu Singh.
147 reviews7 followers
December 7, 2019
Yes, its five star when it comes to the writing style and vocabulary, explaining the characters, building a character over the time, without giving a loose thread in the main storyline, keeping up suspense for even a little bit of details in story.

It was my first book i read of James Lovegrove and not only it stuck to the point that its a Sherlock Holmes story but also it made me fall in love with these characters again.

Writer did a excellent job to make the characters alive again, no concessions made to characters, they promise the same Sherlock and Watson whom we used to love.

I really appreciate the way that writer managed to sewn all the part of the stories which contains secrets and suspense untill the end, and like a debriefing he opens one after another secret of the story.
Go for it it's a perfect Christmas gift (which i have given to myself)
Profile Image for Rose.
398 reviews1 follower
January 8, 2020
James Lovegrove is one of my all-time favorite Holmes pastiche writers, so no one is as surprised as me to find myself giving a Christmas-Holmes mash-up by Lovegrove an "It was okay" rating.

I turn to Lovegrove's pastiches because his characterization is fairly spot-on (not perfectly, but fairly), and his tales are filled with both adventure *and* mystery (Conan Doyle did call them the ADVENTURES of Sherlock Holmes, after all). But the plot in this one was just a little too straightforward: interview this person, interview that person, investigate a crime scene, and repeat until (in the final couple of chapters) the action does pick up somewhat. The bulk of the novel, however, began to drag, because I can only read so many interviews and crime scene searches without variation in the action to keep me hooked.

That still would've easily been enough for three stars, though -- sometimes a slower mystery is all right, and this had the benefit of "holiday tale" and "crazy extended family" tropes to whet my interest. Alas: the characterization was also a problem. I've grown accustomed to Lovegrove writing a Holmes that is a little more callous, and a Watson that is a little more cowardly, than Conan Doyle's versions, and I'm generally okay with this (each writer has to put their own stamp on the thing, after all).

But here, Holmes is mockingly dismissive of *everyone*, pretty much all the time (including *Watson*!), and either rolling his eyes or making a cutting sarcastic remark. A little of this goes a long way, and while the ending did show us "Holmes-with-a-heart," the last three pages were not enough to make up for what had come before. Watson, meanwhile, spends the book eating, sleeping, or wishing he could be doing one of those two things.

(BTW, for the record: *Sherlock Holmes is not dismissive of the supernatural*. He is CAUTIOUS of it, as an explanation -- when others are ready to proclaim the culprit a ghost or demon or what have you, he responds with the need to start with the simplest explanation [that it's human culprit] before going down more unlikely paths, or that the work of the evil supernatural forces can be done just as well by more common, human hands. So he doesn't go conducting seances or consulting mediums or calling in the ghost hunters. But he does *not* roll his eyes and sarcastically insult everyone around him for being SOOOO STUPID as to consider the possibility of the supernatural, and then rant to Watson about how stupid everyone is. He's a *skeptic,* not an asshat. Portraying him otherwise drives me INSANE, pastiche writers. *Please stop doing it.* Thank you. Ahem.)

The end result was a read that felt slightly "off" all the way through. I appreciated the last few chapters for picking up the action and giving us a glimpse of Holmes's heart, which kept me from finishing the book with a sour taste in my mouth -- but this one was not for me. I was hoping for a holiday Holmes story I could reread every holiday season, but this is not that.

... but that's all right. Lovegrove has written so many Holmesian adventures I've adored. A let-down every once in awhile won't change that. I eagerly await his upcoming collection of Holmes short stories later this month.
Profile Image for Fred Hughes.
717 reviews47 followers
September 17, 2020
A great story from the Holmes canon. A rich family starts to experience ghostly apparitions and then there is a death while Sherlock is on site.

Soon we get into the family history and Sherlock is on the trail to determine the killer.

Profile Image for Fleur van Rennes.
20 reviews2 followers
December 26, 2021
I started this novel expecting a nostalgic Christmassy Sherlock Holmes story which would be a quick read, fast-paced and witty. After finishing it, I can say that I found exactly what I expected and loved it.
Profile Image for Demelda Penkitty.
499 reviews12 followers
December 17, 2022
It is 1890, and in the days before Christmas Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson are visited at Baker Street by a new client. Eve Allerthorpe - eldest daughter of a grand but somewhat eccentric Yorkshire-based dynasty - is greatly distressed, as she believes she is being haunted by a demonic Christmas spirit.

Her late mother told her terrifying tales of the sinister Black Thurrick, and Eve is sure that she has seen the creature from her bedroom window. What is more, she has begun to receive mysterious parcels of birch twigs, the Black Thurrick's calling card...

Eve stands to inherit a fortune if she is sound in mind, but it seems that something - or someone - is threatening her sanity. Holmes and Watson travel to the Allerthorpe family seat at Fellscar Keep to investigate, but soon discover that there is more to the case than at first appeared. There is another spirit haunting the family, and when a member of the household is found dead, the companions realise that no one is beyond suspicion.

Having recently discovered James Lovegrove’s Sherlock Holmes books I have to admit to being both very impressed and just a little bit obsessed. I will definitely be reading them all at some point.

Sherlock Holmes And The Christmas Demon was a tight, taut story, well plotted with counter plots, twists and turns throughout. Brilliant villains as opposed to mere baddies. And spiced with a good dose of Yorkshire folklore, this presented as an excellent story that kept me glued to the page, as storms rattled windows and howled down chimneys.

I would say these books are perfect to read in the winter with a full glass of something and a roaring fire. I am very excited about this series and have already ordered The Beast of the Stapletons.
Profile Image for Flybyreader.
625 reviews149 followers
December 17, 2022
Enchanted! Sir Arthur Conan Doyle might not be with us but his creation does not seem to perish. We love this protagonist so much that we keep resurrecting him in many different forms and this is one of the best examples of reimagining. I have never read James Lovegrove’s adaptations of Sherlock Holmes before and only picked this up for the sake of Christmas vibes and I am surprised and profoundly impressed. Lovegrove created a beautiful Sherlock Holmes tale similar to the original stories not only with the characters we are familiar of and the time-period it takes place, but also with the language, elegant prose and style. I can feel the poison circulating my system now so I will definitely read more of the series, this is an absolute must-read for the good old-fashioned Sherlock fans.
146 reviews1 follower
January 6, 2023
Enjoyed this book I love reading Sherlock holmes and Mr Lovegrove did an excellent job
Kept me guessing which was great
Profile Image for Brian.
449 reviews9 followers
December 13, 2022
It’s December 1890 and Holmes and Watson are visited by Eve Allerthorpe who is due to inherit a large estate on her 21st birthday which falls on Christmas eve. However in order to claim her inheritance she has to be of sound mind. But her mental state is being brought into question as she believes she is being haunted by a demonic Christmas spirit. She claims to have seen the demon, known as the Black Thurrick, from her bedroom window. She has also received bundles of birch twigs which are associated with that demon. Eve stands to inherit a fortune if she is sound in mind, but it seems that someone is threatening her sanity. Holmes and Watson travel to the Allerthorpe family seat at Fellscar Keep in East Riding to investigate and soon discover that there is more to the case than first appeared.

James Lovegrove’s novel is a Sherlock Holmes pastiche that as well as being a mystery novel that includes the usual brilliant detective work and deductions also incorporates folklore in the shape of the Black Thurrick, a Christmas demon who punishes children who have been bad during the year. Legend has it that he replaces gifts with birch twigs. This is the second book in a row in which I have encountered this particular Christmas demon having just read Bill Bryson’s The Secret History of Christmas (a recommended read).

As a Holmes novel it is a more than competent attempt, Lovegrove captures Arthur Conan Doyle’s character quite well, it almost feels like you are reading one of his novels. The characters are solid, the prose authentic to a degree and atmospheric. Holmes’ brilliant observations and quips are there, also Watson’s descriptive narrative. However the prose does slip into the 21st century occasionally despite Lovegrove’s attempts to keep it firmly in Victorian England.

Setting it in a sprawling country estate in December 1890, one of the severest winters on record also gives the novel a classic Christmas crime novel feel to it. Fellscar Keep with it’s many corridors and huge rooms ranging from dark dank cellars to roaring log fires provides the perfect atmospheric backdrop to the story. The narrative for the most part is quite dark but there is a smattering of humour to lighten proceedings. The book opens with the lines “Father Christmas! Halt right there!”, as Holmes chases down a jewel thief dressed in an ‘Ivy green robe and mistletoe crown’. The result of which sees Holmes upon capturing him pulling off his false beard to reveal the jewel thief is not one of his most jaw dropping revelations but it is an entertaining start to the book. There is also a scene in which Holmes captures a fleeing suspect with a snowball, explaining his success in the capture was partially his skill as an excellent cricket bowler and partially the inclusion of a stone packed inside the snow. As of the story lines and plots there is, as you’d expect, several and a few red herrings too.

Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon is a fun an entertaining read that in keeping to the traditions of the great detective will satisfy most Sherlock Holmes fans as well as lovers of Christmas crime novels. However it does have its short falls, it uses components already used by Conan Doyle, a mystical beast, a disputed inheritance, and as I have said the prose slips occasionally.
Profile Image for Gilbert Stack.
Author 55 books43 followers
December 20, 2022
Because James Lovegrove has written a trilogy of Sherlock Holmes stories in which the great detective encounters Cthulhu, it’s an open question going into this novel whether or not there will be a literal Christmas demon within the pages. This is not the Holmes of the Cthulhu books, but the traditional canonical detective. He is highly skeptical (to put it lightly) of anything smelling of the supernatural and this book has a lot of clues in it which require Holmes to hold his nose.

Overall, it reads like a pretty traditional Holmes novel. A young heiress has encountered a situation that seems to threaten her sanity, and if she loses her sanity, she also loses the fortune she’s about to come into. Her father doesn’t appear to be very sympathetic to her and is actually arranging circumstances that one could reasonably anticipate would disqualify her from her inheritance (which would give a third of it to his son). So, what is actually happening and how does the possible ghost of the girl’s mother who is alleged to have committed suicide a year before factor into things?

It's a fun mystery with a lot of things going on in it. I did not figure out the solution in advance, but was satisfied with Holmes’ account of the criminal acts. And seeing Sherlock Holmes overcome his inhibitions and embrace the Christmas spirit was nice too.
Profile Image for Ken Kirkberry.
Author 10 books31 followers
November 30, 2020
OK, not the great Arthur Conan Doyle but, a modern author writing in his style. Based in a creepy haunted castle, this story provides an atmospheric Christmas read. Holmes and Watson have several mysteries to solve. There is the obligatory murder, a haunting, and the presence of an eerie folklore creature that is the opposite of Santa Claus.
A mix of Halloween and Christmas maybe? With two of the best detective characters to hit the print, well worth a read.
Profile Image for Mark.
533 reviews154 followers
November 2, 2019
After the last of the Cthulhu Casebooks, Sherlock Holmes and the Sussex Sea-Devils, was published last year, I thought I’d got to the end of James’s entertaining cross-genre series.

So, it was a lovely surprise to get this one arrive through the post – even though it’s a Christmas tale which has arrived before Halloween!

It is 1890 and Sherlock and his friend John Watson are approached by Eve Allerthorpe, whose family seat at Fellscar Keep in Yorkshire appears to be haunted by a demonic spirit – the sinister Black Thurrick, seen walking across the icy lake around the family home, and who leaves small parcels of birch tied together with twine as a sign that the recipient’s days are numbered. Understandably, this is driving Eve to distraction. She fears that it may be part of a plot to make her insane, for she stands to inherit a fortune on her 21st birthday in a few days, if she is sound in mind.

Such a cry for help means that Holmes and Watson agree to visit Eve in her home. The duo’s visit to Yorkshire soon makes them realise that (of course!) the situation is more complicated than at first expected. As the Allerthorpe family gather at Fellscar Keep for their traditional family Christmas, it is clear that something odd is happening. When a member of the Allerthorpe household is found dead, which suggests that there may be more to this than initially thought…

There’s something special about a Victorian Christmas, isn’t there? Thoughts of Charles Dickens, huge meals, men in top hats, gaslights and falling snow are (for me, anyway) as about as traditional Christmas as it gets. Dickens himself, of course, knew how to use these iconic ideas to good effect and James does well to incorporate the same images in this novel. We begin Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon with the chase of a Father Christmas through a crowded London department store, and end with a Christmas feast worthy of A Christmas Carol.

In terms of time, Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon is set between the first and second of the Cthulhu Casebook stories, and as a result this one is perhaps more related to the Gothic ghost stories of Victorian/Edwardian England than Cthulhu. It does read nicely as a standalone, although Holmes and Watson do mention other cases along the way to put things into context.

To me, Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon felt like a cross between a Dickensian mystery and an Agatha Christie crime novel, with a touch of Bronte’s Wuthering Heights for the harsh Northern setting and William Hope-Hodgson’s Carnacki the Ghost Finder for things that go bump in the night.

It also helps that the setting is terrific as well. There’s lots of dashing around the snowy environment where most of the book is set, across lake ice and snow-white slopes and in a wonderfully Gothic castle. At the same time, to counterbalance this, there’s roaring fires and good food and drink mentioned in detail. James does well to balance the two by going all Agatha Christie in a grand setting of oak-lined libraries and drawing rooms and cigars and brandy after meals. On a genre note, there’s a nice nod to Philip Jose Farmer’s Wold Newton stories, which it would be wrong of me to spoil.

The gathering of the Allerthorpe clan for Christmas does create a wide variety of potential murder suspects, which Holmes and Watson do well to deal with. The initially frosty reception from the inner circle of the household towards our detective duo is admirably portrayed, but the characterisation allows us to warm to some as the plot proceeds.

The biggest plus in this novel, and indeed the series, is that the tone and style of writing makes this one seem like a Conan Doyle novel, albeit for a 21st century readership. The prose is right and Holmes’ and Watson’s actions are both realistic and appropriate. The explanation of the processes by which Holmes makes his deductions is a joy to read.

All in all, like Lovegrove’s other Sherlock novels, Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon is a deceptively easy read that draws you in and, once started, I found difficult to put down.

One last point – the cover and the format of the print edition is lovely. Removing the dustcover shows an embossed cover and spine that would make the book look good sitting nicely on any reader’s shelf. It’s not essential, but it does create the impression that this is a quality book the reader would like to keep.

This is one that I can see me dipping into on a perennial basis. I’ve already added it to my pile of Christmassy reads for next year.

“Yuletide is the time we commune with our friends and loved ones. It is the time when we banish demons, lay ghosts to rest, re-establish bonds with those who are dear to us, and reaffirm the good in the world.”

So: may I be perhaps the first to wish you Merry Christmas?! This one is thoroughly recommended, to be read perhaps as the snow falls and the nights draw in. This is one you may keep coming back to.
Profile Image for Connor Daley (CJDsCurrentRead).
277 reviews12 followers
December 11, 2022
This was an included listen on audible, so I gave it a go for a holiday mystery read.

Eve Allerthorpe approaches and attempts to hire Sherlock to help her with a mysterious figure, the Black Thurrick, that has been haunting her. It’s kind of a folklore holiday figure like Krampus, which is not the type of thing Sherlock does, but this time he agrees. Mayhem, mystery, ghosts, gambling, subterfuge, and murder follow.

I felt like this was a pretty good Holmes entry à la Arthur Conan Doyle’s style. Holmes uses deduction, as well as a manner of deception to get to the heart of the matter. Watson is elementary as usual, but I do enjoy his narration of the story as a whole. He is Holmes’ Captain Hastings of course, so it makes sense that I like him. (I know Holmes was first…).

Personally a 4/5* for me, not very Christmasy, but the mystery was fun.
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