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LOREN D. ESTLEMAN
Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula:
The Adventure of the Sanguinary Count


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ibooks, New York, 2000
(price: $14.00; 224 pages)
first published 1978

dedication: To Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the Sherlock Holmes stories, and to Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, from whose fertile brains sprang the two most enduring characters in fiction, this volume is gratefully dedicated.


The blurb on the back:

The year is 1890. A ship is discovered adrift off the English coast, its crew missing, its murdered captain lashed to the wheel, and its only passenger is a sinister black dog. This impenetrable mystery is clearly a case for the inimitable Sherlock Holmes, but for the first time in his illustrious career the great detective is baffled. Clearly the crew have been murdered and dumped overboard, but what can account for the captain's expression of imponderable terror and his acute loss of blood, or the ship's strange cargo - fifty boxes of earth?
The game is afoot, and Sherlock Holmes, aided as ever by the faithful Dr Watson, finds himself on the trail of no mortal enemy, but the arch-vampire himself - Count Dracula...
From the impalement of the 'Bloofer Lady' to the abduction of Watson's beloved wife, Mary, from the death of a harmless prostitute to a terrifying conclusion on a lonely beach, this unique case is at once a glorious celebration of two of the most famous literary genres, a riveting thriller with sensational climaxes, and a tale guaranteed to delight all Holmes and Dracula lovers everywhere.


This is one of the classics of the genre: a brilliantly simple concept - Holmes and Dracula together at last - executed with style, flair and a real sense of glee. The Foreword tells us the provenance of the newly discovered manuscript (as is obligatory with the pseudo-canon) and apologises for any errors, attributing them to the difficulties of understanding Watson's scrawl - he is, we are reminded, a doctor and we all know how illegible their handwriting is. You know you're in safe hands right there.

The book doesn't disappoint. It's a lovely work that, unusually for this kind of thing, has enough confidence in its central conceit not to require the introduction of Moriarty. Dracula is a sufficiently large-scale villain.

Of the many editions available, this one is particularly recommended since it has a new Afterword by Estleman, written in 2000, which tells you something of the conception and reception of the novel. It also has some spot-on comments about other works: Jeremy Brett is rightly celebrated as the best screen incarnation of Holmes, whilst Gary Oldman is 'talented but pudding-faced' and is therefore miscast as Dracula in Coppola's movie. Damn right.

Estleman went on to repeat the trick with Dr Jekyll and Mr Holmes.


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