As with the other novels in the Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes series this fuses Sherlock Holmes with a classic of horror, science fiction, or fantasy. In this instance the Phantom of the Opera.
The novel opens with an explanation that it is written by Doctor Henry Vernier, Holmes’ cousin, and not Watson. This seems a sensible method of justifying the different style needed for the more gothic and romantic elements; however, instead of merely freeing himself from Watson’s voice, Siciliano has his narrator criticise Watson for actively misrepresenting Holmes’ real personality and beliefs. This leads to some scenes that – while they fit in the context of the story – do not unfold in the way the reader expects Holmes to act.
The overarching plot of a mysterious being haunting the Opera and mentoring a young soprano remains the same; with a Holmes made less a figure only of cold reason and some changes in sub-plots, the story was fresh enough that I was still uncertain whether the Phantom is supernatural even knowing the original.
Viewed as gothic detective fiction and not a Sherlock Holmes story, the novel is well written. The mirroring and contrasting of both the Phantom’s genius and his passion with Holmes and Vernier respectively is particularly notable.
Overall I enjoyed this novel and would recommend it, and the rest of the series to people looking for cerebral detection or a new spin on a tale. However, of the Further Adventures I have read, it is the least authentically Holmesian, so would probably irritate those who consider Conan Doyle’s’ voice a large part of their enjoyment of Holmes stories.