Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula

Loren D. Estleman presents Bram Stoker's classic as told by Dr. Watson in SHERLOCK HOLMES VS. DRACULA: THE ADVENTURE OF THE SANGUINARY COUNT (1978). The novel begins with an introduction in which Estleman, as "editor," narrates the discovery of Watson's long-lost manuscript. The rest of the book unfolds the "truth" about Count Dracula's invasion of England from the viewpoint of Holmes and Watson, with a preface by Watson explaining that Stoker's novel contains bits of deliberate falsification to omit any mention of Holmes's role and magnify Dr. Van Helsing's. In a credible pastiche of Arthur Conan Doyle's style, Watson begins the adventure at the point where Sherlock Holmes first becomes aware of it, when a journalist from Whitby consults him about the shipwreck of the mysterious "death ship" in Whitby Harbor. It's expected, of course, that most readers will be familiar with DRACULA and thus will follow Holmes's investigation in full knowledge of what really happened to the doomed vessel.

Holmes and Watson later track the "Bloofer Lady" and run into Van Helsing's team preparing to stake the undead Lucy. From Van Helsing, the great detective hears the incredible tale of Count Dracula's journey from Transylvania to England. Throughout the novel, Holmes's investigation intersects the activities of Stoker's characters, but Holmes and Watson don't directly confront the vampire lord until late in the story, when Dracula's threat finally becomes personal. Appropriately, the detective's role in the case ends with Dracula's shipboard flight from England back to his homeland. Holmes and Watson learn the ultimate outcome at second hand.

This book comes across as a believable piece of Sherlock Holmes fanfic, which I think any fan of Doyle's series would enjoy. As a vampire novel, it's simply a retelling of DRACULA filtered through an observer who remains mostly distant from the action until the climax. The Count appears onstage even less than in Stoker's original. A much better vampire fiction crossover of the two classic characters is Fred Saberhagen's THE HOLMES-DRACULA FILE (also 1978), a sequel to his own inimitable reinterpretation of Stoker, THE DRACULA TAPE (1975).

Margaret L. Carter

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