There’s something very exciting about seeing an author tackle not just one, but two well-known intellectual properties…especially when the resulting novel is as fantastic as Fred Saberhagen’s The Holmes-Dracula File.
“It is with emotions doubly strange that I at last take up my pen to write the story involving the creature I have elsewhere referred to as the Giant Rat of Sumatra — a story, I may add, that until quite recently I had thought likely would remain forever unrecorded.”The Holmes-Dracula File, by Fred Saberhagen (page 25)
The Holmes-Dracula File follows Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson on one of their more unusual cases. When a young woman named Miss Tarlton seeks Holmes’s assistance in locating her missing fiancé, the detective finds himself investigating not only a missing persons case, but also a murder, as well as a plot that could kill a great number of London’s inhabitants. It soon becomes clear to Holmes that something supernatural is connected to his investigation…a powerful being with a thirst for blood.
The first time I read this book was when I was a teenager. The book came to me from my dad, who has long been a fan of the Sherlock Holmes stories, both those in the original canon, and those written by authors other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I remember really enjoying The Holmes-Dracula File the first time I read it, and I’ve enjoyed it more with each successive reading.
One of the things I find very interesting about this book is the fact that it is told from two different perspectives, which alternate between chapters. Half of the story is told by Dr. Watson, and comes from a manuscript that he had written sometime prior to his death. The other narrator is the infamous Count Dracula, who has returned to London six years after the events of Bram Stoker’s Dracula for “personal” reasons. In addition to the chapters the Count narrates, there are also several times when he makes a point of adding to Dr. Watson’s manuscript in a series of footnotes. Some of these give clarification of points that the doctor would have no knowledge of, while others attempt to correct assumptions regarding his history or behavior.
Saberhagen is clearly well-versed in the source material, and the way in which he has portrayed the characters is excellent. He did a marvelous job of creating the voices of both Dr. Watson and Count Dracula in particular, and the book reads very much like a classic Sherlock Holmes story, even though it includes supernatural elements.
If you’re looking for a great horror/mystery to read this month, I definitely recommend checking out The Holmes-Dracula File. This book is the second in Saberhagen’s Dracula series (the first being The Dracula Tape), but it can definitely be read as a standalone novel if you are familiar with the original Dracula story. Personally, I’ve read all of the books in this series, and thoroughly enjoyed all of them.