It is 1890, and in the days before Christmas Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson are visited at Baker Street by a new client. Eve Allerthorpe – eldest daughter of a grand but somewhat eccentric Yorkshire-based dynasty – is greatly distressed, as she believes she is being haunted by a demonic Christmas spirit.
Her late mother told her terrifying tales of the sinister Black Thurrick, and Eve is sure that she has seen the creature from her bedroom window. What is more, she has begun to receive mysterious parcels of birch twigs, the Black Thurrick’s calling card…
Eve stands to inherit a fortune if she is sound in mind, but it seems that something – or someone – is threatening her sanity. Holmes and Watson travel to the Allerthorpe family seat at Fellscar Keep to investigate, but soon discover that there is more to the case than at first appeared. There is another spirit haunting the family, and when a member of the household is found dead, the companions realise that no one is beyond suspicion.
A huge thank you to Titan Books for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
So it’s mid-October, the spooky season and here I am reading a Christmas story! I am fond of Halloween but I am definitely more of a Christmas lover and this was the perfect story to get me into the festive mood. I loved everything about this enthralling tale – from the much loved crime-solving duo, to the setting, the cast of characters, the sinister Black Thurrick and the haunting of Mrs. Allerthorpe – it’s one that I’ll surely be reaching for again and again.
I was fascinated by the Black Thurrick and was eagerly eating up Eve’s stories about him. The Black Thurrick is a terrifying tale told to Eve and her brother, Erasmus, at bedtime in a bid to get them to behave. To me, the Black Thurrick was pretty similar to the Grinch; described as evil, a hunched figure carrying a sack slung over its shoulder that punishes children who have behaved badly during the course of the year. The Black Thurrick is said to steal infants from their home, hence the sack. He replaces presents with clusters of birch twigs so when Eve starts discovering them placed around her family’s home, she calls upon Sherlock Holmes and John Watson to find out who is behind this sinister act.
I really enjoyed the vast cast of characters and how the whole extended Allerthorpe family came to visit. It made the story very entertaining at times and added in some great festive scenes. My favourite relationship was the one Eve had with her brother. I loved how close they were – it reminded me of my relationship with my own brother and even though we see each often less often now, we are still really close and have fortunately always got on with one another, even growing up. It was very touching too see how much they cared for each other.
James Lovegrove did a fantastic job with Sherlock and John – as he usually does. In some stories, I feel like John doesn’t contribute much to the story and often ends up being in the way but with The Christmas Demon he was right in the thick of it. He was always there when Sherlock needed him and he was there for characters he barely knew, namely Eve, by comforting her when she was panicking about the Black Thurrick and caring for other members of the household if they were taken ill. I loved this side of John and found a lot of his scenes to be very touching. Sherlock, of course, was his usual self and completely focused on solving the case.
I loved all the interactions between Sherlock and John. A particular favourite of mine was when they are investigating the east wing which is where the ghost of Mrs. Allerthorpe supposedly resides. John voices the possibility that the residents genuinely did experience something uncanny and ends up being scolded by Sherlock for believing in the supernatural. I thought that scene was hilarious and there’s a few like it when John wonders if the Black Thurrick is not simply a scary story told to children at bedtime, but actually a real living creature. I loved how John was much more open to the possibility of supernatural entities but is constantly shot down by Sherlock who is ultimately fearless and entirely certain that the residents are being terrorised by one of their own.
I was expecting The Christmas Demon to be good but I didn’t expect it to capture my attention so quickly. It was an intriguing and gripping story, filled with so many twists and turns that it rapidly evolved from simply being about one creature terrorising an innocent family, to becoming so much more. I loved seeing Sherlock gradually piece things together and explaining how he reached these conclusions. I thought the ending was very heart-warming and I can’t wait to see what James comes up with next! This is a fantastic story and one fans of the originals are sure to love.