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Sherlock Holmes and The Three Winter Terrors


Sherlock Holmes and The Three Winter Terrors

For Sherlockians like myself, the gift of a “new” Sherlock Holmes mystery for the holiday season is just what we hoped Father Christmas would bring us this year. Holmes may be the most popular fictional character of all time, especially if you are judging it based on the number of stories depicting him.

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE THREE WINTER TERRORS is the third Holmes story from James Lovegrove that I have had the privilege of reviewing, following SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE BEAST OF THE STAPLETONS and SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE CHRISTMAS DEMON. This time around, Lovegrove has structured the tale so that it reads like three entirely different novellas wrapped up under one title. The puzzle for both Holmes and the reader is to find the ways in which these stories are related to each other.

"SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE THREE WINTER TERRORS will chill readers to the bone, and this complete trilogy makes for another Holmes masterpiece."

Before diving in, I must refer to Lovegrove’s dedication: This book is dedicated to the memory of the late, great JEREMY BRETT, unquestionably the best onscreen Sherlock Holmes. (Others may disagree, but they are wrong.) As a fan and voracious consumer of all things Holmes, I tend to agree with his assessment. We open with a foreword from John H. Watson, MD, Holmes’ loyal companion and historical scribe of all their adventures together.

The First Terror is set in 1889 and is titled “The Witch’s Curse.” Watson is responsible for bringing this strange case to Holmes in the form of a troubled principal at a boys’ prep school who happens to be an old schoolmate of Watson. The primary reason for Timothy Wragge’s distress is the young student who drowned in a nearby pond. Of course, Holmes takes the case because it intrigues him, and he doesn’t have anything else with which to occupy his easily distracted mind at the moment.

The boy was fully clothed, and there had been no signs that he might have been disturbed enough to take his own life. Wragge hits Holmes with something far less tangible as a form of evidence --- a witch’s curse dating back to the school’s founding and beyond. Holmes, a skeptic in anything supernatural, scoffs at this and insists that there must be a logical reason for the lad’s death. Still, Wragge claims that dread of the supernatural can persist, and even the rich are not immune from superstition.

The butchering of a pet cat is cause for alarm that the guilty party is still out there and may be toying with Holmes. Next to the dead cat are these words: “I have returned. Nobody is safe.” As much as he would like to dismiss the supernatural as a factor in the boy’s death, Holmes cannot help but recognize that this case is most confounding.

The Second Terror, “The Cotton Mill Ghost,” takes place in 1890. When Holmes and Watson appear at a specific location, they are greeted by a gentleman who states, “My life is a nightmare, gentlemen. A living nightmare. I am being haunted, you see. Haunted by a vengeful ghost.” For a protagonist who is infamous for his mockery of all things supernatural, it’s amusing that a majority of these cases forces Holmes to face the very denizens of a dark realm he cannot see or touch.

When the man in question dies of a heart attack, it appears on the surface that he was frightened to death. It is now the job of Holmes, with the able assistance of Watson, to find the specific cause of death --- and he may have to reluctantly admit that part of the evidence may not be of this earth.

The Third Terror, “The Yukon Cannibal,” is set in 1894. The victim here is found on the outskirts of the woods that surround a Surrey country manor. The body is ravaged in such a way as to suggest that it was eaten, possibly by a human as opposed to an animal attack. As Holmes and Watson dig deeper into this final case, certain parts of it seem to be linked to the previous two. It appears that Holmes is being challenged by three cases within a five-year span that will push his skills and skeptical nature of the supernatural to its limit.

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE THREE WINTER TERRORS will chill readers to the bone, and this complete trilogy makes for another Holmes masterpiece.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on December 10, 2021

Sherlock Holmes and The Three Winter Terrors
by James Lovegrove