Sherlock Holmes and Dorian Gray

By Christian Klaver

Sherlock Holmes and Dorian Gray, a novel by Christian Klaver
Book details Books in the series About the author

Forget Marvel and their Marvelverse, the place that I want to be is in Christian Klaver’s Victorianverse. This is an alternative history of the era, but also of the fiction of the time. In the author’s 'The Classified Dossier’ series, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson have already come across the likes of Dracula, the Invisible Man and Mr Hyde. There is a rich playground to play in with characters who would never have met had copyright still held. In Sherlock Holmes and Dorian Gray, the intrepid detective meets not only the world’s most eccentric party boy, but a mysterious circus made up of performers with seemingly unnatural talents. 

Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson have come across some shocking things in their time, but the idea of Mycroft Holmes leaving the country is the most startling of all. All Mycroft left his brother was a note to investigate a circus found in Hyde Park. The circus acts are exceptional, but Sherlock cannot see any criminal activity, until one of the performers is found dead. The case will lead to a mysterious sect, led by the circus performers, after all, are they not men? 

Dorian Gray is the third in the series and it does benefit from having read the first two books, just so you can get over the shock of what Dr Watson has become, or who the duo counts as allies. At this point, the series has become a real ensemble, still told from the point of view of Watson, but with so many great characters to read about. In this series Klaver specialises in introducing characters from outside the Holmes world and bringing them aboard, in a way that fits. By this point Sherlock is aware of strange beings, but these are only supernatural in terms of them being exceptional. All can be explained by science. 

Tackling the tale of Dorian Gray is a difficult one. This is truly a supernatural story, so how can Holmes use logic? The secret is that Klaver does not play by the rules, and the author should not have to. These characters and stories are in the public domain and can be treated as such. Klaver takes stories such as The Picture of Dorian Gray and fits them into a Sherlock ideal, but still respects the source material. 

Like in previous outings, there is more than one story at play here. Another famous book and its characters play a significant role. Klaver blends Sherlock, Dracula, Hyde, Gray and another together. There are moments of homage. We meet Dorian Gray at a party and the book lilts towards Oscar Wilde, in a flashback sequence we get tones of H G Wells, and Dracula gets his own sections that touch on Bram Stoker. The book remains resolutely a tome as told by Watson, but you get the sense that the characters from other novels brought part of their story with them. 

The meeting and mashing together of the various characters are what I enjoy most about this series and it continues again here. Although outlandish, it has that authentic Watson voice, but made even more readable to modern audiences. There is a case at the centre that does become a little lost in the action, particularly in the third act. Sherlock is not allowed to use his powers of deduction as much as usual but does show off his physical prowess. I enjoyed this book and am enjoying the series. By respecting the source material, but not being afraid to play with them, Klaver has written something that fans of urban fantasy and Sherlock can enjoy.

Written on 6th March 2024 by .

You may also like

The Time Machine and The Island of Doctor Moreau