Reviewing The Clockwork Scarab

The Clockwork Scarab: A Stoker & Holmes Novel
[The Stoker & Holmes Novels — Book 1]

By Colleen Gleason

Reviewed by Jeff Salter

When I saw the teaser for this book – featuring the names Holmes and Stoker in Victorian England – I knew I had to check it out. But Sherlock only appears in a couple of cameos and there are no actual vampires herein. Mina is Sherlock’s very independent 17-year-old niece and has many of his stills of detection. Evaline (about that same age) is the younger sister of author Bram Stoker, who (in this story) is focused on his work with a local London theater. The girls are hired by Irene Adler (working on special assignment for one of the Royal Family), who holds a special place in Sherlock’s mind / heart.

This was my first foray into the universe of Steampunk Stories… so I didn’t really know what to expect. I assume this author ties-in with already-established steampunk tropes, but it’s also possible that she invented some of the machines and conveyances which appear herein. For example, Mina uses a Steam-Stream gun and occasionally rides on a Steamcycle.

In this “universe,” electricity has been effectively outlawed… so everything mechanical runs on steam and most of the lighting comes from gas lamps. In this universe, therefore, almost everything has gears and levers — like the mechanized “Brolly-Keeper” (which holds umbrellas when not in use). Lovers of steampunk stories will likely enjoy all these gadgets, but to me they were mostly a distracting contrivance. [Sorry].

In steampunk London, the city has three [ ? ] levels above ground… and some sort of balloon / blimp construction that has a fourth level in the air. Try to picture “fly-bridges” and “sky-anchors.” [Sorry I can’t describe this better… but I can’t even picture it myself.] All this is in addition to the actual “underground” (i.e., subway system), of course.

Evaline Stoker is a hereditary vampire-hunter — but despite her super-human strength, she’s not yet actually killed a vampire. But her numerous skills in that regard are quite handy when combating villains of London’s criminal underworld. She develops a romantic interest in Pix — a wily, street-smart petty thief with a heart of gold.

Mina is attracted to a young, handsome Inspector Grayling (of Scotland Yard) who continues to issue stern reproofs (about her dangerous behavior) which she promptly ignores.

So the reader would logically assume each young lady has a potential love interest… and we can proceed with those developing threads. Oops… into this story drops Dylan — an accidental time-traveler from some hundred years in the future. He has his cell phone with him, but no way to charge it and no signal (of course). As you’ve likely guessed, Mina finds herself almost equally attracted to Dylan. Will Dylan stick around in Victorian England to develop this attraction to Mina? Or will they succeed – over the course of five novels – to find a way to zap him back to the future?

There are some humorous moments, especially in the middle of this story (after time-traveler Dylan has more time on stage) with his 21st century cultural references and passing allusions to products and equipment familiar to present day readers… but totally alien to these Victorian Londoners.


As writers, we are repeatedly warned to limit our use of dialect. This author ignores that advice with the character Pix… whose cockney speech is difficult to read and understand.


I think it’s a terrific concept to team up members of the Holmes and Stoker families… but readers may not be expecting those individuals to be teenagers. This is the first of five titles in this series and I can see where these characters have plenty of room to develop new cases. If you’re “into” steampunk stories, you’ll probably love this novel. But if your primary interest is in Sherlock Holmes, you may be disappointed. The grand man – Uncle to Mina – appears only in a couple of walk-ons.

Amazon Blurb

The sister of Bram Stoker and the niece of Sherlock Holmes investigate missing girls and murder in this steampunk fantasy mystery series opener.
Evaline Stoker and Mina Holmes never meant to get into the family business. But when you’re the sister of Bram and the niece of Sherlock, vampire hunting and mystery solving are in your blood. And when two society girls go missing, there’s no one more qualified to investigate. Now fierce Evaline and logical Mina must resolve their rivalry, navigate the advances of not just one but three mysterious gentlemen, and solve murder with only one clue: a strange Egyptian scarab.
The stakes are high. If Stoker and Holmes don’t unravel why the belles of London society are in such danger, they’ll become the next victims.

[JLS # 568]


About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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7 Responses to Reviewing The Clockwork Scarab

  1. Patricia Kiyono says:

    I read this entire series and loved it. Yes, the steampunk setting took a little time to accept, but I thought the story was fun. Colleen Gleason is quite skilled at world building – she has several series published under various pseudonyms. The cultural clashes between Dylan and his new friends are indeed entertaining, as well as the hints of a romantic triangle. Mina’s uncle does make appearances in each book, but as you noticed, he’s definitely not a major player. Vampires will play a huge part in subsequent installments.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      I had forgotten that you’ve previously reviewed one or more of this series. Perhaps that’s where I was alerted to the title and decided to buy it.
      Glad to hear that the whole run moves nicely.
      But did you ever get the hang of Pix’s dialect?


  2. Interesting premise, in fact, I am going to try to get my post together now for tomorrow and discuss a series that blends familiar characters into its own world. If you don;t like the gadgets, well, steampunk is not for you; it’s rather what it is all about.
    Before I read Patty’s answer, I thought that perhaps the writer had a problem writing the gadgets into the storyline, but I guess it’s a case of personal [reference, Jeff.
    We even liked the movie “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter”, so this one just might be worth a look for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      I’ll have to comment another day on the film with Prez Lincoln battling vampires atop a moving train.
      Yes, I quickly realized that the steampunk genre is built upon gadgetry, but for it to be satisfying to me those gadgets would have to be PRACTICAL. I mean, who needs a motorized umbrella stand?


  3. Elaine Cantrell says:

    I’m not sure where I saw it, maybe on Netflix, but I think I’ve seen a movie similar to what you describe. Holmes’ niece was the heroine, but I don’t remember anything about the Stoker family being in there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      Not too long ago, I posted a review of a diff. book in which Holmes was a “real” person and had a detective niece in America. Can’t recall the name right this minute. Maybe that was part of your memory?


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