The Dartmoor Horror - Joe DeSantis, Cover art by Bob Berry of Bob Berry Illustrations

BOOK REVIEW: The Dartmoor Horror (2014)

By Woofer McWooferson

Cover art by Bob Berry of Bob Berry Illustrations.

Joe DeSantisThe Dartmoor Horror came to my attention via an email from the author. Being a fan of Sherlock Holmes, I eagerly accepted his request for a review. Unfortunately, I was not able to read it immediately, but when I did get the opportunity, I was not disappointed. The Dartmoor Horror is clearly a labor of love that was carefully constructed to fit the Holmes canon as well as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s personal writing style.

The Dartmoor Horror grew from DeSantis’ dissatisfaction with the ending of The Hound of the Baskervilles and his desire to right what he saw as a minor but important missed opportunity on Doyle’s part. Doyle himself was a strong spiritualist having famously supported the reality of the Cottingley Fairies, but his creation, Sherlock Holmes, was the exact opposite – a man of science and reason with no use for the fantastic. As DeSantis points out in his Author’s Note, The Hound of the Baskervilles is as close to a supernatural horror crime mystery as Doyle ever wrote and, as such, was ripe for showing Holmes’ flexibility in the face of evidence that counters his. Perhaps it is because The Hound of the Baskervilles was Doyle’s third Holmes novel or perhaps it is because Doyle doubted his own belief in the supernatural. Either way, DeSantis didn’t shy from it and this is where The Dartmoor Horror picks up.

In The Dartmoor Horror, we are presented with the return of the Hell hound as well as information that strongly hints that it is a supernatural creature. Through the course of the novel, we are further introduced to another undeniably paranormal element, but DeSantis never wavers in his faithfulness to the great detective. On the contrary, DeSantis maintains the nomenclature and dialect of the period while simultaneously breathing new life into a story that has been part of English literature for over 100 years.

DeSantis eases us into the story – aware that there might be a bit of hostility on the reader’s part since he is, to an extent, messing with what has been voted as the best Sherlock Holmes story Doyle ever wrote:

The carriage ambled slowly and deliberately over the winding country road, leaving a long, low cloud of dust behind as it made its way into the outskirts of the town. The driver, briefly energized by the appearance of the scattered, outlying cottages gave his whip a short snap onto the rump of the solitary old horse pulling its burden along.

The Dartmoor Horror was a delight to read. DeSantis’ prose, while faithful to Victorian norms, compels the reader forward, eager to discover how the great detective will piece it all together. Since DeSantis is working with established characters (for the most part), there is less character development than characterization, but this is to be expected. We know these people from the Doyle story, and they behave in exactly the way we anticipate they will even while we’re unable to perfectly predict it. Indeed, while DeSantis peppers the text with clues – both to the mystery itself as well as to where Holmes’ deductions lead him, exactly how the ending plays out is pleasantly unexpected.

Final verdict: 7.5/10. A great addition to any Doyle or Holmes fan’s library.

You can purchase The Dartmoor Horror here. Find out what else Joe DeSantis has written here.

Cover art by Bob Berry of Bob Berry Illustrations.

Posted by Alan Smithee

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