The Doctor, Benny, and Ace team up with Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson to investigate and defeat an alien conspiracy.
The bulk of the novel is presented as a fictionalised account by Arthur Conan Doyle based on Watson's papers and a copy of Benny's diary. Much Holmesian Continuity Porn ensues. The author, Andy Lane, went on to write a series of Young Sherlock Holmes novels authorised by the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate.
This novel contains examples of:
- 90% of Your Brain: A character with psychic powers (pyrokinesis, specifically) is discovered to have suffered a massive head trauma which destroyed a large chunk of his brain. Benny mentions the 90% thing, and speculates that the man's brain, in the course of rerouting around the damage, started using a previously unused part of the brain and activated the pyrokinesis.
- Artifact Collection Agency: The Library of St John the Beheaded, which collects books containing information for which The World Is Not Ready.
- Cain and Abel: Sherlock's non-canonical brother Sherringford (originally from William S. Baring-Gould's fictional biography ''Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street'') turns out to be an evil cultist. In the end, however, it's Sherlock himself who is forced to shoot him down.
- Comic-Book Fantasy Casting: Sherlock Holmes is Basil Rathbone on the front cover, which is referenced off a publicity photo for one of his movies. The interior illustrations give him a different appearance.
- Continuity Nod: Among the documents held at the Library of St John the Beheaded are the journals of Redvers Fenn-Cooper, the explorer abducted by aliens in "Ghost Light".
- Continuity Porn: For Sherlock Holmes fans, with references to all the famous noodle incidents, controversies, and fan theories.
- Crossword Puzzle: There is a fun incidental joke involving the Doctor struggling with the Times crossword.
- Did You Get a New Haircut?: The Doctor leaves Benny in India to investigate a lead, and picks her up again two months later:"There's something different about you." He frowned, and looked me over again. "Don't tell me. Let me guess."
"It's the hair, isn't it? You've had your hair done."
"I know! You've lost weight."
"No, Doctor, I'm disguised as a man."
He checked again.
"Are you? How very Shakespearean. Well, I'm sure you've got a good reason."
- Fish out of Water: Holmes gets increasingly uneasy, especially once the action shifts to an alien planet, because although he still has the observational skills to spot details others would miss, he lacks the context knowledge to determine whether they're important or what they mean. After a while, he starts to find his feet again, and he contributes some important deductions to the denouement.
- Framing Device: The Doctor, Benny, and Ace, some time after the adventure is over, reading The Adventure of the All-Consuming Fire, a novel by Arthur Conan Doyle based on Watson's and Benny's diaries from the period. And occasionally remarking that they remember it happening differently.
- Gothic Horror: With spies, monsters, cosmic horror, loads of Creepy Catholicism (and its opposite number, bull-headed scientism of the "but it's XIX century!" sort), the whole shebang.
- Intercontinuity Crossover: All-Consuming Fire sees the Doctor team up with Sherlock Holmes against the Cthulhu Mythos.
- Is the Answer to This Question "Yes"?: Played with. Ace says, "Does the pope wear a funny hat?" Watson, who met the pope earlier in the story, replies, "Not the last time I saw him."
- Keeper of Forbidden Knowledge: The Library of St John the Beheaded.
- Literary Agent Hypothesis: Uses the fan theory that Holmes and Watson were real people and that ACD based his stories on Watson's accounts. It's stated that "Sherlock Holmes" and "John Watson" are names made up by ACD to protect their identities, but because we're reading ACD's version of the events those are the names that are used.
- Lovecraft Lite: The novel is pretty self-aware about this; the narration alternates between Watson, who finds the experience full of incomprehensible strangeness and mind-scarring horror in classic Lovecraft fashion, and Benny, who's much more blasé about the whole thing. ("Rugose alien monstrosities? What, again?") Because it's Doctor Who, the latter worldview wins out in the end — it's revealed that the monster is only pretending to be a Great Old One for the cosmos-cred; it really is Lovecraft Lite.
- Majored in Western Hypocrisy: Tir Ram, the Eton- and Cambridge-educated Nizam of Jabalhabad.Holmes: I am honoured to meet your Highness. May I compliment you upon your excellent grasp of our clumsy tongue.
Tir Ram: I was at Eton and Cambridge, Mr Holmes. I even speak Hindi with an accent now.
- My Card: The Doctor calls on Holmes while he's out, and leaves a card reading simply "The Doctor — Travelling". Holmes is able to deduce several extra details, particularly that the card is a one-off, not part of a batch, and was printed recently, perhaps specifically for the purpose of being left for Holmes.
- "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: All-Consuming Fire has the framing device of being an account written up by Doctor Watson, with an epilogue in which the Doctor and Benny have just read it themselves. Benny queries the Doctor about such details of Victorian life as using strychnine as a flavouring for beer, and filtering sugar through bull's blood. He assures her they're all true.
- Pull a Rabbit out of My Hat: While visiting Egypt, the Doctor is accosted by a conjurer who does a series of tricks with baby chickens, including making them appear and disappear. When he pauses in expectation of payment, the Doctor pulls a rabbit out of his own hat and hands it to him. How he manages this when he presumably had no idea in advance that a rabbit would be called for is never explained.
- Sherlock Scan: Holmes attempts one on the Doctor, and is unable to deduce anything because the clues are outside his experience; for instance, he notices a splash of mud on the Doctor's trouser leg, but can't get anything from it because it's from an alien planet.
- Shout-Out: Far too many references to Holmesian canon and fanon to list. Also references to The Lost World's Professor Challenger and Lord John Roxon, Fu Manchu, and Kim Newman's Diogenes Club agent Charles Beauregard. It's also one of several New Adventures to have references to the Cthulhu Mythos, including a featured alien race that fits the physical description of the aliens in "The Whisperer in Darkness". The section in Jabalhabad owes a fair bit to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Bertrand Russell is name-checked by Holmes.
- Spontaneous Human Combustion: All-Consuming Fire features what first appears to be a case of this, but it ultimately turns out to have been murder-by-pyrokinesis.
- Stock Unsolved Mysteries: The origin of the San Francisco Fire is revealed at the climax.
- Sweet Polly Oliver: Benny disguises herself as a man while undercover in 19th century India. Once the Doctor finally notices, she explains she abandoned her original cover, as a woman looking for a husband, after she decked a man in a pub, and decided she'd draw less attention this way.
- Treasure Chest Cavity: This is how the villain was able to steal a book from the Library of St John the Beheaded despite its stringent security measures: the book was hidden inside his accomplice's body, in a surgically-created cavity.
- Unreliable Narrator: Watson's narration is hampered by the many things he doesn't know or doesn't understand, while Benny's narration is taken from the yellow pages of her diary.note And then who knows what distortions were added by Arthur Conan Doyle in the process of making it a novel.