Crossover stories are an arduous task to pull off. On paper, the idea of hybridizing two or more established properties is an enticing notion, but when it comes to finding that successful blend of the characteristics that define their respective worlds, often is the case that they don’t quite live up to expectations. Paul Kane’s Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell amalgamates the universes of Arthur Conan Doyle and Clive Barker respectively, pitting the brilliant detective and his trusty sidekick Watson against their deadliest foes yet – THE CENOBITES.
The book opens with an introduction from Hellraiser icon Barbie Wilde, herself a wonderful author whose work I suggest you seek out immediately. Here she recounts her childhood memories of reading her father’s Sherlock Holmes books until they literally fell apart. Her attachment to the Hellraiser universe is seminal and well-documented, but her love of Holmes is authentic and lifelong. Therefore, her blessing of Kane’s tale ought to dispel any worries the reader might have in regards to this experiment not succeeding. That being said, anything involving Kane and Hellraiser comes with an air of expectation given that Clive Barker himself has commended his expertise on the subject matter. You just need to read his The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy book to get a glimpse into his encyclopaedic knowledge of the franchise. Couple that with his unique imagination and scope for storytelling and you know it’s going to be a winner.
The story centres on Holmes’ and Watson’s investigation into a series of disappearances in London. All of the missing persons have vanished into thin air, and the only evidence left behind is the stench of vanilla and reports of a mysterious blue light in the darkness. Following the death of Moriarty, Holmes has been craving a stimulating challenge, and to entertain himself he’s been partaking in drug use and extreme forms of meditation. This could be just what he needs. However, this case might just present him with a challenge that’s out of his control.
I’ll leave it at that, because spoiling this mystery would be doing you an unforgiveable disservice. Just know that it’s a resounding success that will surprise you at every turn, even when it incorporates elements you’ll undoubtedly be familiar with.
When you think about it, this crossover is not such an outlandish idea. The Hellraiser franchise has thrived on mystery since its inception, and uncovering seemingly impossible mysteries is the very lifeblood of Sherlock Holmes tales. Furthermore, the character of Holmes is a pursuer of knowledge with a number of self-destructive tendencies which provide him with temporary pleasure. Haven’t the Cenobites made a career out of giving those who summon them more knowledge and ‘pleasure’ than they can handle? Throw in seedy gentleman’s clubs, the occult and an array of complimentary nuggets to each universe and the parallels are evident.
Thankfully, for fans of each franchise, Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell integrates both worlds seamlessly. Not only does it work as a Holmes detective mystery and as a haunting Hellraiser story; it stands out as a unique body of work in its own right and a damn impressive one at that. The homages are there in abundance; dutifully respected, yet weaved – and mutated – to great effect. Without going into spoilers, you’ll be grinning from ear-to-ear when you find out what’s become of some of Holmes’ old enemies – that’s if you aren’t shivering to your very core as the story plunges into the heart of darkness. Like the work of Barker and the greats who have tackled Holmes’ most compelling adventures, Kane has created a highly addictive tale that’s intelligent, layered and brimming with splendid imagination.
Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell is a masterwork. If you’re a fan of Sherlock Holmes or Hellraiser, you owe it to yourself to check it out and see for yourself how wonderfully these worlds converge and bleed into each other to share DNA. Diehards will appreciate the Easter eggs throughout, yet it works as a standalone story that won’t deter newcomers to either franchise. Furthermore, Kane adds his own unique touches that expands on established mythology to great effect with aplomb. This is one you’ll want to read time and time again, and it’ll take something triumphant to top it in 2016.