This book was provided to me by the publisher, Titan Books, for review.
The Premise: In this series by different authors (originally published in the ’90s and being repackaged and republished today), Sherlock Holmes interacts with very unusual characters like the supernatural or alien. Some characters are recognizable from other famous works like aliens from the War of the Worlds, and in this case the vampire Dracula (who is a cousin).
In Seance for a Vampire, Holmes and Watson are asked to sit in on a seance for their client Ambrose Altamont. Altamont believes that a couple of charlatans are using the recent drowning death or their eldest daughter Louisa to swindle money out of his too easily duped wife. This turns out not to be a simple case however, because Louisa Altamont does show up at the seance – but as a vampire, and she begs her family to find some long lost treasure before her soul can rest. In the ensuing chaos, Sherlock Holmes is kidnapped. Watson turns to the only person who could help in these bizarre circumstances – Holmes’ distant cousin, Prince Dracula.
My Thoughts: This is sort of a mash-up, because we have Sherlock Holmes, and we have vampires and Dracula, but it’s not quite what I consider a mash-up, where worlds from an original story is used with additional monsters added to it. This is an original work but using characters from famous works. I’m not really a fan of mash-ups but I do like mysteries and I do like vampires, so I thought it would be interesting to see what this one would be like.
This book read like a pretty straightforward mystery – the prologue gives us most of the background into the crime who is behind it all and why. I won’t go into details here to keep it spoiler free, but this is all in the prologue, which means the reader knows what is going on at all times, and the only mystery is where the treasure really is hidden. Otherwise, we just follow Watson and Dracula, who are the narrators of the story, as they track down Louisa Altamont and the man who turned her into a vampire.
I think the writing is supposed to reflect the same tone as the original Sherlock Holmes novels, and there is a formality to the story because of that. It’s a clear, easy read, but also rather dry. The voice of Dracula is a little bit more elegant than that of Watson, but sometimes I did not really notice when the narrators had been switched until either one would drop a clue as to who was talking. Dracula would also sometimes describe his actions in the third person as if his alias, Mr. Prince, was another character, which was very odd. I think that the author must have done a lot of research into the time period that this book was set (the early 1900s), and it is reflected in the language and the terms used. I liked the mention of the newest technology of the time – the motorcars and how driving in them at 30 miles an hour was a novelty, but at times the details felt like overkill, like when Dracula reads pages of headings of a daily newspaper, and this had nothing to do with the case.
One thing that bothered me in this book was the way a lot of the female characters were portrayed. Firstly, they were all very minor, and victims (of murder, kidnapping, rape, fraud) or opportunists (a vampiress, a fake psychic). Then there is what happens to them. I suppose the thing that really bothered me was when Louisa shows up in her fiance’s bedroom and the next morning after their night together, he is repelled and attracted to her (not knowing at yet beginning to suspect that she’s not Louisa anymore), and thinks of her as “last night’s whore”. He sleeps with her again the next night. It’s a case where one line in a book can really jar you. Later we find that Watson, Holmes, and Dracula are all sure that Louisa was raped by a vampire (I’m not sure what evidence they used, but apparently her night with her fiance was it), which disturbed me further because her actions did not reflect this. I think that a lot of the characters got very distraught and upset over Louisa’s death and return as a “ghost” but the deep trauma that Louisa herself must have gone through in turning into a vampire seemed glossed over and that one line with her fiance thinking of her as a whore felt REALLY inappropriate.
After reading this, I discovered a lot of references to a previous adventure with Sherlock Holmes and Dracula. You don’t have to read that book (The Holmes-Dracula File) to understand what’s going on in this one, but it would probably help.
Overall: It was OK. It was a light, easy read. The pull of the book was having both Dracula and Sherlock Holmes in it, but the story was so straightforward and lacked a really juicy mystery, that I felt like Holmes or Dracula could have been substituted with any detective and vampire team and there wouldn’t have been a difference, and the switch in narrators was sometimes confusing. I also had a problem with the portrayal of the victim Louisa in this story.
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The Great Geek Manual – C (70 / 100)
Bummer. Sounds like it has some things going for it, but how the women are portrayed would bother me too. Rather like Storm Front but more obvious?
I haven’t read Storm Front yet (I have quite a chunk of Jim Butcher’s books in the to be read pile). 🙂
Um.. well it wasn’t obvious, I think to me the females were just minor characters, but then that line about “last night’s whore” had me actually call her fiance a bad name out loud, and after that it got me thinking about the rest of the females. The worst part was that one line. If they took it out I’d still say the book was just OK, but that line really bugged me.
I really didn’t like Storm Front, for several reasons, but I’m going to give Butcher’s fantasy series a shot.
Were the men set up in such a way that they were meant to be hypocrits? (I’m actually getting curious enough to read this!)
Hmm. I don’t think they were set up to be hypocritical. But maybe? It was subtle if so, and I could be oblivious.