“Swashbuckling adventure crossed with literary criticism...”
October 12, 2017 10:13 AM   Subscribe

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter is the Monster Mashup We Need [The Verge] “Goss introduces us to Mary Jekyll, whose well-regarded scientist father died when she was a child. While cleaning up her recently deceased mother’s affairs, she learns of an account in her name supporting someone named Hyde. With the death of her mother, her first priority is to get her household back in order, and to figure out how to pay off old debts. She enlists the services of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson to investigate, believing the person to be a notorious and brutal associate of her father’s, Edward Hyde, who is wanted for murder. Mary hopes the money from a long-offered reward would help set her house in order. Instead of the wanted criminal, she discovers that the money is supporting a feisty young woman named Diana Hyde, left in the care of a charitable organization.”

• Dracula vs Hitler by Patrick Sheane Duncan Satisfies as Both Horror and War Story [Nerdophiles]
“It is written in a similar format to Dracula with journal entries, military communiques, and chapters from other books included. It even opens with an author’s note, asserting that the contents were found in the national archive. Far more complex than the name might imply. The premise is simple: the spread of Naziism is affecting Eastern Europe, as small bands of resistance spring up. In one area in particular, Romania, formerly known as Transylvania, a certain Professor Van Helsing works closely with the locals to resist the spread of the Nazis. He eventually realizes that far more drastic measures are required if Hitler is to be stopped and so decides to do the unthinkable: resurrect Dracula, who was not destroyed as suggested in the original novel. With the aid of Jonathan Harker’s great grandson and Van Helsing’s own daughter Lucy, Dracula is enlisted by the Romanian resistance to fight off the oncoming armies. However, be warned, it takes nearly one-hundred pages before the vampire is even awakened, but it is well-worth the wait. ”
• Healthcare for All, Even the Monsters: Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw [Tor]
“Dr. Greta Helsing inherited a highly specialised medical practice. From her consulting rooms on Harley St., where she operates on a shoestring budget, she runs a clinic for the monsters that hardly anyone knows about. (She sees, for example, cases of vocal strain in banshees, flu in ghouls, bone rot in mummies, and depression in vampires.) Greta’s just barely making ends meet, but she’s living the life she’s always wanted. She’s making people’s lives—people who can’t easily access medical care anywhere else—better. But when old family friend (and wealthy vampire) Edmund Ruthven calls her to look at a new patient, her life begins to get complicated. Sir Francis Varney, vampire, was attacked in his home by chanting men garbed as monks wielding strange blades coated in poison. Though he survives, and is on his way to recovery under Greta’s care (and Ruthven’s), this attack bears significant similarities to several (human) murders perpetrated by a so-far-uncaught serial killer stalking London. If the serial killer—or killers—have branched out into hunting the undead, that’s bad news for all of Greta’s patients, since they can’t very well rely on the police.”
• “In sheer authenticity and charm, however, nothing matches Sherry Thomas’ Lady Sherlock series.” [Mystery People]
“Charlotte sidesteps social stigmas by pretending to help her ailing brother, Sherlock, with the physical investigation necessary to solve cases, while attributing her success to his bedridden calculations. Charlotte gathers an able coterie to assist her – Livia Holmes, her dreamy sister, chronicles her cases, while she finds assistance in everyday investigation from Mrs. Watson’s mischievous niece, Penelope Redmayne. Meanwhile, the three women tackle the pressures of the London social scene, either turning down proposals, or pining away with the other wallflowers. Thomas’ second in the series, A Conspiracy in Belgravia, is a comedy of manners worthy of Jane Austen and an elegant puzzler that would please Agatha Christie. Sherry Thomas came to fame for her skill in crafting historical romances – a talent that shines bright in the witty repartee and playful skirting of propriety that grace the pages of her second mystery.=”
• Weird Lovecraftian-inspired Fiction [Crime Fiction Lover]
“The Adventure of the Deadly Dimensions is the second mash-up this year combining HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos with Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. The first, James Lovegrove’s Sherlock Holmes and the Shadwell Shadows, was a thoroughly enjoyable romp. The author Lois H Gresh is a noted writer of weird Lovecraftian-inspired fiction, but this is her first time writing about the great consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes. The year is 1890 and Holmes and Watson are thrown into a bizarre case by the visit of Willie Jacobs. The dishevelled Jacobs and his father have been running an experimental tram line in London’s East End. A bizarre machine powers the tram and father and son have been fuelling it with phosphorous. Now the father has died in mysterious circumstances, and Willie Jacobs is convinced the machine is the culprit. The strangeness of the claim and the ritualised component of the murder – the victim’s remains are little more than a jumble of bones on which sits a bizarre cube etched with runes – stimulate Holmes’ imagination, even if the supreme rationalist is dismissive of Jacobs’ opinion”
posted by Fizz (29 comments total) 82 users marked this as a favorite
Happy All Hallow's Read!
posted by Fizz at 10:14 AM on October 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

It was a mash-up... it was a monster mash-up!
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:20 AM on October 12, 2017 [18 favorites]

Wow! nice! thanks!
posted by infini at 10:38 AM on October 12, 2017

I'll be on vacation next week and even though my kindle is bursting at the seams, I reckon I'll take along a least one of these. Thanks!
posted by rtha at 10:38 AM on October 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Just finished Alchemist’s Daughter this last week-end. It's competent writing, but not a classic. I don't know if I'll look for the follow-on tbh. It's not going to replace A Night in the Lonesome October as my annual re-read just before the end of the month.

On the other (slightly clammy) hand, Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys was my pen-ultimate read, and one I'd enthusiastically recommend. I will be looking for her next, sequel or no.
posted by bonehead at 10:40 AM on October 12, 2017 [4 favorites]

Winter Tide was something I was on the fence about, but your recommendation has sealed the deal, so thanks for that bonehead. I'm in the middle of Alchemist's Daughter and I'm enjoying it quite a bit. I think I like the story more than the writing, but it's not a bad read and still very entertaining.
posted by Fizz at 10:51 AM on October 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

What ever happened to that "Jesus Christ: in the Name of the Gun" nazi-werewolf hunter comic?
posted by notsnot at 10:58 AM on October 12, 2017

He eventually realizes that far more drastic measures are required if Hitler is to be stopped and so decides to do the unthinkable: resurrect Dracula,

This is how bad our current political climate is, we're needing Dracula to help fight off fucking Nazis.
posted by Fizz at 11:07 AM on October 12, 2017 [4 favorites]

I think I like the story more than the writing

I don't mean to be too critical. Alchemist's Daughter is a frothy adventure confection, and kept me happily diverted on a plane ride, to be sure. But there's considerably more depth of flavour to Winter Tide. Reading the two back to back was a rich meal followed by a light desert.
posted by bonehead at 11:11 AM on October 12, 2017

bonehead, I think my main issue was the frame in which she writes.

**slight spoiler**

When the other characters jump into the text to share their own commentary/POV, it's a bit jarring and pulls me out of the text. There's some light-hearted banter there, but it is not working for me and I'd rather just read the story of Mary Jekyll and her adventures.
posted by Fizz at 11:15 AM on October 12, 2017

That being said, it's still early in the novel, so maybe this gets better over time.
posted by Fizz at 11:20 AM on October 12, 2017

I think it's actually integral to the story that the author is trying to tell, but I personally didn't *quite* buy it in the context of the framing device she chose to employ for the purpose. Though I really enjoyed one of the alternate POVs in particular (the one with the library -- I think that's the least spoilery way to describe it).
posted by inconstant at 12:25 PM on October 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

I will warn everyone that the only frustrating part of Strange Practice is that it's the first of a series and there aren't any more books yet. Otherwise, it's a solidly good book.
posted by teleri025 at 12:41 PM on October 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

Downloaded the Alchemist's Daughter last night.

Hooray, lots more to read!
posted by BlueHorse at 12:56 PM on October 12, 2017

Also, there's something about this genre that just produces some beautiful book covers.
posted by Fizz at 1:04 PM on October 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

I personally didn't *quite* buy it in the context of the framing device

It's trying to provide a view from another side of the source novels, but it ends up being too broad to dig deeply much in any of them. As such, I found it rather insubstantial, in the same way that superhero movies often are. Though their individual situations improve, the characters' essential essences are largely unaffected by the events and plots in the novel. Sorry if that's a bit spoilery, but that's kind of the genre convention too.

Winter Tide is a similar idea, from the point of view of one of Lovecraft's lesser, more human monsters. Here though there are quite terrible loses, before and during the novel, and even still monsters among the "monsters". There seemed more at risk, and all the characters have to adapt or face the consequences. As I said above, a bit of a deeper dive, especially one right after the other, as I read them.
posted by bonehead at 1:08 PM on October 12, 2017

I've called Vivian Shaw a pleasant associate, and a friend of mine calls her a best friend, since the LJ Days. I remember when she would online-RP Greta, and I got the book when I got some money, and I really enjoyed it.

I fully expect trouble with angels and mercury arc rectifiers to be huge in her books, based on what I remember.
posted by mephron at 2:06 PM on October 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh hey, awesome. I've purchased most of these for my library and am happy to see them go out, though it always seems to be right when my book queue is short enough to actually borrow one, which is slightly frustrating.

I'd love to talk about Winter Tide more without risk of spoiling it. Maybe a FanFare thread? My TLDR thoughts about it are a recommendation, but there are some spoilery nits I'd like to pick...
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:10 PM on October 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

Titan Books has an entire Sherlock Holmes pastiche series, some of it mashups. The best of the mashups so far is actually Kim Newman's parodic The Hound of the D'Urbervilles...which is about Moriarty, not Holmes, but winds up including pretty much every late-Victorian/Edwardian crime fiction villain known to humankind. Gresh's novel was fine; I also quite liked James Lovegrove's Sherlock Holmes and the Shadwell Shadows, which looks like it's going to be part of a Cthulhu series.

I'm not sure if anyone has challenged Neil Gaiman's "A Study in Emerald" for best Holmes/Cthulhu mashup, though.

Conversely, if you're tiring of the mashup trend, Adam Roberts' I Am Scrooge: A Zombie Story for Christmas sends up the whole genre.
posted by thomas j wise at 3:00 PM on October 12, 2017

I'd love to talk about Winter Tide more without risk of spoiling it.

I really really really wanted to love Winter Tide. I like "The Litanies of Earth," and it's totally what I like -- Lovecraft with the racism and sexism removed and examined, but... it's kind of cozy. The weird of Lovecraft, the uncertainty and uncomfortableness, is not there. I suspect that Ruthanna Emrys is not the Nega-Lovecraft but the Nega-Lumley, which is still worth being, I say as someone who just reread Necroscope and was appalled at what my younger self had enjoyed. *Shudder*, but not in a good way.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:29 PM on October 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

I suspect that Ruthanna Emrys is not the Nega-Lovecraft but the Nega-Lumley, which is still worth being, I say as someone who just reread Necroscope and was appalled at what my younger self had enjoyed.

GenjiandProust, not trying to completely derail but what is the issue with Lumley. I never grokked on his writings when I was younger, is there a particular issue with him being racist or sexist or something like that?

If its too deraily, MeMail me.
posted by Fizz at 3:38 PM on October 12, 2017

It's too deraily, I think.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:04 PM on October 12, 2017

I really liked Theodora Goss’ short stories. Thank you for this pointer.

And Lois Grech was a fine panelist and person to talk with at this year's Necronomicon.
posted by doctornemo at 5:01 PM on October 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

it's kind of cozy

I think that's a great way to put it. It's not bad, mind you, it just felt like all the characters got their character classes and Hamish Macbeth was due to arrive any moment. The world building is great and I feel that Emrys is setting the stage for a bigger story at the cost of finishing the one before her.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:34 PM on October 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

Another Lovecraftian Mashup to consider:
Lovecraft + Scooby Doo = Meddling Kids.
Basic premise: What if it wasn't a dude in a rubber mask after all?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:37 PM on October 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Meddling Kids was a real odd duck. The author has some really unusual turns of phrase in there -- I felt that the female character POVs were kind of "yep, a dude wrote this", but I stuck with it despite my usual impatience because I was dead curious about what other ninety-degree-twist-through-the-fifth-dimension uses of language I'd encounter next! And I will say that, like Well Witched, I believe this to be a case of misleading cover -- a humorous title and a cartoony cover illustration wrapped around a rather dark tale.

Anyway, seasonally appropriate.
posted by inconstant at 8:45 PM on October 12, 2017

I read Winter Tide as a manifesto book: a point-by-point rebuttal of all the racism and sexism inherent in Lovecraft (and the social constraints of the era he was writing in), but more importantly as an assertion that monstrousness is the outcome of deeds, and appearances are at most only skin-deep: the worst horrors in the novel are perpetrated by human beings, after all.

As a commentary on Lovecraft's mythos it serves to draw a line under what has gone before and to assert, "we can (and will) do better".

Bonus points for declining to draw the obvious holocaust metaphor.
posted by cstross at 3:55 AM on October 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

Yes, let's please do a Wintertide thread on Fanfare. I have many things to say about it and I already feel we're moving into derail territory based on the number of comments referencing the book.
posted by KingEdRa at 12:17 PM on October 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

I put up a Winter Tide post in Fanfare if anyone is interested in continuing that particular conversation.
posted by KingEdRa at 12:12 PM on October 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

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