The Angel of the Opera

The Angel of the Opera

by Sam Siciliano

The unforgettable place: Paris, 1890.

The glittering scene: the labyrinthine Paris Opera.

The irresistible premise: what if Sherlock Holmes, lured across the Channel by the beleaguered managers of the Opera House, unlocks the true secrets motivating the infamous Phantom?

But, as is the case with all problems presented to the great Sherlock Holmes for solution, nothing is quite as it seems at first .

What People Think about "The Angel of the Opera"

(My whole review will have spoilers, so choose to read at your own risk.) (view spoiler) I knew I was in for trouble in the 'preface' when we don't have Doctor Watson but Holmes sex obsessed cousin instead (I'll get to that later why he's labeled such). As many other reviews said, yes, he (the author, the cousin) slags Watson, calls him stupid, and Holmes a completely different person than we know. Then, the Count (Phillipe De'Chagny, Raoul's brother) is a ladies man and tries to get Holmes to 'pick up' Christine buy offering him money because he does not want her associating with his family. He finds everything Raoul does irritating and actually starts pitying the Phantom. I don't mean, 'oh, poor soul', I mean 'wow, I want the Phantom to end up with Christine instead of this douf'. Holmes decides to befriend the Phantom, humor him, applaud him, and share common likes with him. The Phantom in return starts taking a liking to Holmes but doesn't want to peruse a friendship because he is associating with Raoul and creating matters difficult. Apparently, Holmes and the cousin go down to the cellars, discover Erik's lair, and are trapped with Christine (like in the book). Holmes gets angry and aims a gun at Raoul because he's so irritated with him by this point that he'll just off the guy to save the Phantom the trouble. Christine ends up choosing Raoul, to which Holmes wasn't surprised about.

Saying that though, I will give it two reviews - one as a Sherlock Holmes story and one as its own detective story. I am a huge Sherlock fan and this book changes his character, his motives, and his style - essentially everything that makes Sherlock such a lovely character.

I love Sherlock Holmes and I love the Phantom of the Opera. So you can imagine my interest when I found that someone had written a Sherlock Holmes/Phantom of the Opera crossover book in which Sherlock and Erik go head-to-head. Instead the book is narrated by Dr Henry Vernier, Sherlock Holmes's half-French cousin. He obviously did some research before he wrote this book because Vernier is actually a legitimate Sherlock Holmes character. In one of the Arthur Conan Doyle stories there's a reference to Watson selling his medical practice to a man called Verner, who later turns out to be a cousin of Sherlock's. Sherlock Holmes is part-French after all and changing "Verner" to "Vernier" isn't too much of a stretch. Siciliano also seems to have read Gaston Leroux's Phantom as well because the Persian and Raoul's brother Philippe are both in this story. Didn't Siciliano think that slagging off Watson, the much-loved narrator of the Sherlock Holmes stories, might not be such a good move?! Siciliano's narrator Henry Vernier claims that Watson's writings are "foolish" and inaccurate. It was so he could go completely against the Sherlock Holmes that is depicted in the Arthur Conan Doyle stories, so he could create his own Sherlock Holmes by changing aspects of the character's personality. The first change that Siciliano makes is that now Sherlock is capable of romantically loving women and isn't asexual. The second change that Siciliano makes is when he has Vernier state that all of the quotes and incidences from the Conan Doyle stories which suggest that Sherlock believes in God were just an invention of Watson's and that Sherlock is actually a firm agnostic. I was not happy with the changes that Siciliano made to Sherlock Holmes's character! Siciliano also makes Sherlock Holmes sickly-sweet and touch-feely in this story. Yet another issue that I had with this book was with Siciliano's narrator. Up until now I've only mentioned how Siciliano ruins Watson and Sherlock's characters but if you think the characters from Leroux's book fare any better then think again. In fact Siciliano even invents a completely new character just so he can have Raoul kill him and make him look like even more of a villain! Now it's my understanding that some Sherlock Holmes/Phantom of the Opera fans have been able to forgive Siciliano's book for its MANY faults simply because they found the conversations between Sherlock and Erik entertaining. Vernier even thinks to himself that Erik's face isn't too bad and that he's seen worse.

In any case, I have long enjoyed Leroux's Phantom of the Opera and as Sicilliano's The Angel of the Opera is somewhat of a hybrid of what could be deemed "fan fiction," I have to say this is one of the better books I have encountered. (Without giving too much away, this is essentially a retelling of the Phantom of the Opera from the viewpoint of Sherlock Holmes and his assistant/cousin, Henry Vernier). In fact, when he shoots and kills a character during a scene in the book (I won't say who), this is really expanding on a "trigger happy" aspect of Raoul's character that was introduced in the Leroux novel. As for the Persian, we are given so little info about him in Leroux's book that I was not bothered by Sicilliano's departure from more refined interpretations of the Persian as generally benevolent and helpful. He certainly does have no qualms in Leroux's book about helping to lead Raoul to Erik's lair. I view Sicilliano's revelation that Holmes is actually very like most men and struggles with his attraction to women as being more realistic. First of all, like many others, I was somewhat annoyed with the Watson-bashing that occurs early on in the prologue (and sets up the introduction of Holmes' companion and assistant for this adventure, Henry Vernier). Some scenes from Leroux's book that here include Holmes and Vernier seemed...well, forced. Still, the scene where Christine kisses Erik while Holmes and Watson look on is quite well done and beautifully descriptive. Lastly (and this is a minor issue), although I thought it was wonderful how Erik does get a happy ending in this book, I have to say I am bothered by the choice of a blind woman as a companion.

This book set up an interesting plot: What if Sherlock Holmes was hired to ferret out the Phantom? Watson (who is really rather disparaged in this book) is discarded in favor of Sherlock's cousin, Henry Vernier, and the two set off to Paris in search of the infamous Phantom of the Opera. The character of Erik (the Phantom) is done rather well, as are Raoul and Christine. There are some minor plot alterations to fit in Holmes and Vernier, but none that really detract from the original Phantom of the Opera story.

I could have rated this book higher if not by the annoying replacement of Dr. Watson as the default narrator. Instead of Watson we get a "Dr. Vernier", a supposed French cousin of Holmes.

Kinda fun to read a crossover fanfic of Sherlock Holmes/Phantom of the Opera in pro format .

The overarching plot of a mysterious being haunting the Opera and mentoring a young soprano remains the same; with a Holmes made less a figure only of cold reason and some changes in sub-plots, the story was fresh enough that I was still uncertain whether the Phantom is supernatural even knowing the original. Viewed as gothic detective fiction rather than a Sherlock Holmes story, the novel is well written.