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The True Story of the Giant Rats of Sumatra

By Lauren Steinhauer

iUniverse, Inc., 2004, Trade Paper, $12.95
ISBN: 0-595-31707-3

Review by Larry Jung

I am a long time fan of the Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes stories. I have read many of the short stories over and over again, always with pleasure. So I am always dubious picking up any of the Holmes stories not by Conan Doyle. It is like reading "The Return of Hamlet" and hoping the playwright can match Shakespeare's original. Lauren Steinhauer's pastiche was a welcome surprise. Steinhauer did not make the common mistake of trying to beat Conan Doyle at his own game. Holmes and Watson are not made to follow the path of the original stories. The plot, though set in Victorian times, is contemporary in its themes and treatment. It would not take much to turn "The True Story of the Giant Rats of Sumatra" into a graphics novel. Indeed, fans of "The League of Gentlemen Adventurers," both the movie and the graphic novels, will like the Giant Rats of Sumatra. The story pits Holmes and Watson against the forces of perverted science and the occult. The villian's goal is to control the very destiny of all living things on Earth. Along the way the reader meets Father Mendel and Charles Darwin, as well as the giant rats of Sumatra. And it all starts out with a missing girl and the theft of typewriters.

This book is a quick read and suitable for the daily commute on the train or bus to work. The storyline is straight forward and the chapters short enough to avoid having to stop at awkward places in the story when you have to get off the train or bus. My only warning is to those diehard Holmes fans not to expect a formula Holmes story and to not be shocked by the pace and action.

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