The Dreaming Man
Dark Renaissance Books
Reviewed by Shane Douglas Keene
There aren’t many among us who haven’t encountered, somewhere in our reading experience, the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, some excessively so, and while the Sherlock Holmes stories were somewhat formulaic, it was a good formula that kept us going back again and again to dip into the reservoir of high adventure and deductive reasoning that was Doyle’s signature and his stock in trade. And many other writers have come to draw from that well, to varying degrees of effectiveness, with Dan Simmons and Paul Kane heretofore topping the list as far as quality and the air of authenticity that has been elusive for most of the Holmesian pastiche that’s been produced by lesser authors, particularly in the horror genre. But with twenty-some novels and more than three-hundred short stories under his belt, author William Meikle is more than up to the task and his newest book, The Dreaming Man, is one of the best, most convincing Sherlock Holmes stories I’ve ever read.
In The Dreaming Man, we find Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson following a seemingly erratic path of crimes all perpetrated by the same strange man but otherwise completely disparate in detail. As more and more offenses occur, Holmes discovers a pattern that eventually leads him to a house in the remote countryside where he discovers that he has been being played the entire time, led on a collision course with an old enemy and a familiarly precarious situation. Pulling in elements from several of Doyle’s–and his own–Sherlock Holmes stories, Meikle delivers a perfect portrayal of the brilliant detective but, as he does with everything he writes, he adds his own flair to it, giving us a mystery liberally salted with chilling supernatural horror.
William Meikle’s ability to portray Holmes and Watson in a perfectly authentic fashion is nothing short of remarkable, yet he never once comes close to descending into the realm of fan fiction, telling a story that is at once a thing of his own creation and an almost organic seeming spawn of the original Arthur Conan Doyle works, enthralling the reader as much or more than those early stories that we fell so in love with. The linguistic cadence and pacing of the tale are masterful, the characters perfect and true to form, and Meikle’s authorial voice is a thing of wonder as you find yourself drawn into the story and racing along after clues with Holmes and Dr. Watson, sometimes losing site of the fact that this is a horror/armchair mystery mashup created by William Meikle and not one of Doyle’s own creations.
Another truly exceptional aspect of The Dreaming Man is William Meikle’s descriptive prowess. With as few words as necessary, he’s able to paint vivid, visceral imagery on the canvas of his reader’s mind, making you feel as if you’ve seen and experienced rather than read about the events of the story. And he can build a scene as well as anyone in the business, placing you firmly within his setting. Whether it’s the dank and dreary countryside or the cobblestones of Victorian London, he makes you feel rooted within the scenery as you follow along with the hapless duo’s adventures and misfortunes. In addition, you actually do get to see some of the tale as the book is peppered throughout with the gorgeous illustrations of artist Wayne Miller, serving as a perfect accompaniment to an already perfectly rendered story of adventure, mystery and horror.
The Dreaming Man is the first of William Meikle’s Sherlock Holmes stories that I’ve read but it certainly won’t be the last one. I fully intend to go back and read the previous ones as well as any that he writes in future. He’s got the characters, the settings, and the pacing of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s London down to a science, and he’s delivered here a literary mashup of genres that, as a direct result of Meikle’s considerable talent and attention to detail, meld together like they were made for each other. Whether you’re a fan of Sherlock Holmes or not, The Dreaming Man is damn good fiction and just plain old good fun that’s bound to please any fan of great horror fiction.
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