Holmes and Watson investigate a strange masked man in possession of armour and weaponry of unprecedented sophistication

(Titan Books)

THE two-pronged assault of original Holmes material from Titan Books has proved there’s still a healthy appetite for stories of the Great Detective, whether it is modern editions of long out-of-print tales in The Further Adventures series, or the original fiction range which runs parallel.

Following in the footsteps of Guy Adams (The World House) and George Mann (the Newbury and Hobbes series) comes acclaimed science fiction author James Lovegrove’s take on Holmes and Watson, itself owing more than a little to the steampunk genre.

An elderly Watson recalls how a spate of unsolved bombings across London coincided with the debut of a mysterious masked vigilante known as Baron Cauchemar, whose similarities to the notorious Spring-heeled Jack were bolstered by his use of remarkably sophisticated weapons and armour…

The dire situation prompts Mycroft Holmes to ask his brother for assistance in investigating the bombings, but Holmes has already deduced a link between “the Bloody Black Baron” and the attacks, and what begins as a typical mystery soon escalates into one of the most audacious adventures the Great Detective has ever found himself embroiled in – and that includes the recent Robert Downey Jr blockbusters.

The Baron proves a worthy challenge for Holmes, despite his somewhat outrageous premise, and the 19th century crusader’s motives create divisions between Sherlock and many of his usual allies, who seem convinced Cauchemar is behind the devastating acts of terrorism.

The real strength here lies in Lovegrove’s ability to capture the characterisation, context and atmosphere of Conan Doyle’s original work, while injecting remarkably fantastical elements into the premise.

In common with the Guy Ritchie movies there’s not much in the way of a mystery here, and the emphasis is firmly on action, but that doesn’t detract from ensuring The Stuff of Nightmares secures its place as one of the strongest Holmes pastiches of recent years.

* Sherlock Holmes: The Stuff of Nightmares by James Lovegrove is available from Titan Books for £7.99.