I really enjoyed this book. I wasn’t particularly expecting not to, nor was I expecting great things from it. But you know what? Its zeitgeist-riding mixture of zombies and Sherlock Holmes hits an absolute sweet-spot.
I feel an urge to take issue with its cover, however, which shows an iconic Sherlock – deer stalker, pipe and all – as a decomposing corpse. Despite the rancid subject matter it’s a beautifully rendered image. However, it doesn’t happen in the book.
This is a more classic, reverent Holmes than you might imagine. He’s more likely to wear a bowler hat than a deer stalker, and smokes a cigarette rather than a pipe – more traditional Conan Doyle than Basil Rathbone. Even the zombies, despite sounding like (and let’s face it, being) the horror staple du jour, are treated with phenomenal respect. These aren’t the ambling undead of the movies. These are diseased zombie spawn of Moriarty, a mixture of Victorian cholera, criminal intent and infected meteors, despite heavy reference to the real-life cholera work of John Snow.
The illustration is equally as solid. Davide Fabbri’s Victoriana, with elements edging towards steampunk, is a joy to behold. Likewise, his zombies are near perfect. What more could a you wish for?
It’s gripping, well plotted, conscious of its source material and yet divinely derivative. But so what? Bite the bullet, because this is almost better than the sum of its parts. And when its parts are classic Sherlock and the best of zombies, you can’t really lose.