[Review] Under A Raven’s Wing

under a raven's wing stephen volk

Under A Raven's Wing

By Stephen Volk

Ann Laabs reviews Under A Raven’s Wing, Stephen Volk’s collection of Sherlock Holmes prequel stories featuring Edgar Allan Poe’s detective Dupin…

   In Under A Raven’s Wing, two new stories (‘Language of Terror’ and ‘Mercy of the Night’) join seven previously published stories. Fortunately, this collection is 100% ‘new to me’. While I’ve read plenty of Sherlockian pastiches (from Sherlock Holmes vs Dracula by Loren D Estleman to ‘Sherlock Holmes IS Jack the Ripper!’) since discovering Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce on Saturday Mystery Matinee, few collections have proven to be such a treasure trove of quality and originality as this one.

   Here is my review.

   Seven words.

   Buy it. Read it. Luxuriate in it.

   Need a bit more encouragement? A bit more persuasion as to why this collection is a must for any fan of mysteries, The World’s Greatest Detective, and/or 19th Century ratiocination? To answer those questions, I will be going on for a bit about… Christmas desserts.

   What, I hear you ask, do the exploits of a pre-canon Sherlock Holmes, learning the art and science of detection from the supposedly fictitious French detective C. August Dupin, have to do with holiday bakery?

   Allow me a few moments, my friend.

   Whether a Christmas cake, Christmas pudding, or a slice of stollen, these calorie-laden treats all feature disparate elements that – once put together – seem made for each other. Just as the pairing of Conan Doyle’s analytic sleuth Holmes with Poe’s florid genius Dupin may seem like a highly unsuitable mix of crime-solving chalk and cheese… until you read these stories, and realise that, in the right hands, chalk and cheese are made for each other.

   Like a loaf of perfectly baked marzipan-frosted stollen (my personal favourite), each story in Under A Raven’s Wing is a delectable treat. And like a slice of festive cake, it’s impossible to stop at just one.

   Approaching a new book by an author or creator you greatly admire is admittedly difficult: you feel both the anticipation of reading something wonderful, and a dash of apprehension at possible disappointment. For anything written by the co-writer of one of my favourite cinematic ghost stories (The Awakening, Murphy, UK, 2011) and writer of the flat-out classic found-footage broadcast Ghostwatch (BBC, 1992), that level of anticipation and apprehension notches up a bit higher.

   Fortunately, Stephen Volk‘s Under A Raven’s Wing joins the small category of prequel stories (like Bates Motel, A&E, 2013-2017) that take an original and audacious path to a predetermined destination. You embark on a journey with a character you think you know everything about, but by the end, you (and your beloved character) arrive at an endpoint that shines in a new light.

   From the first story, the reader is immersed in a gloriously atmospheric introduction of Holmes in the streets of 19th Century Paris, meeting the supposedly fictional Dupin: you find yourself luxuriating in the literary mash-up as you would a fine piece of baking. As I read, I imagined myself into the past, casting myself as a Victorian reader enjoying a new Sherlock Holmes story in the latest Beeton’s Christmas Annual. It gave me a sense of stepping back in time to a fantastically real and beloved world. While the culprit in one story, in my reading, lacked the character and motivation of the other rogues featured in these chronicles (as well as a description of the Statue of Liberty that will seem off to any history buff or viewer of the TV show Fringe (Fox, 2008-2013)), I shall – as Volk suggests in his Afterword – lay that charge against the narrator.

   Both in the UK and worldwide, I hope PS Publishing gets Under a Raven’s Wing into bookstores and makes it widely available to order online: the beautiful design by Pedro Marques creates an immersive reading environment surrounding Volk’s prose. This newest of Sherlockian pastiches makes a wonderful gift for fans of Sherlock Holmes, Victorian-era genre fiction, or any lovers of 19th-century weirdness.


Pre-order Under A Raven’s Wing by Stephen Volk by clicking the image below…

under a raven's wing stephen volk

Ann Laabs

Ann Laabs

Born and raised along the shores of Lake Michigan, Ann lives with one husband and two black cats. Her horror habit started with 1970s UHF Saturday matinee movies, before discovering Edgar Allan Poe and eventually settling into the ghost story wing of the Horror Mansion. Her employment in an office setting may not be glamorous, but does provide a great benefit – steady income for books, Blu-rays and a subscription to Shudder! After writing movie, book and TV reviews, and deep dives for TV shows The Exorcist, Bates Motel, and the first two seasons of Channel Zero at http://www.SciFi4Me.com, Ann currently publishes when she can at her blog www.FangandSaucer.com.

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