Thursday, August 18, 2011
Have you ever wondered what sort of a child - or better yet - what kind of teenager Sherlock Holmes must have been to develop into the master detective that he became? The first Sherlock story has him at thirty-three years old and very little was revealed about his growing up. What kind of parents did he have, was he raised with the best of everything or did he struggle? Was he always so logical or was he trained? Why did he play the violin and just how did he learn to fight so well? Well we can put many of those questions to rest because the Young Sherlock Holmes series by Andrew Lane is the first teen series endorsed by the Conan Doyle estate. An auspicious beginning.
Author: Andrew Lane
Copyright: February 2011; Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 320 pages
Series: #1 in the Young Sherlock Holmes
Sensuality: Adventure violence
Mystery sub-genre: Young Adult Mystery
Main Character: 14 year old Sherlock Holmes
Setting: 1868 England
Obtained book through: Library Find
Sherlock Holmes attends Deepdene School for Boys and he is looking forward to spending his summer break at home. School is difficult for him, he has no friends among the other students or the faculty. Summer was when he could be free. But his older brother Mycroft meets him at school and says that their military father is currently fighting in India and their mother's ongoing illness makes it impossible for him to go home for the summer. Mycroft works for the Foreign Office and doesn't have time to care for him either. So arrangements have been made for him to spend the summer with distant relatives he has never met nor heard of.
Sherlock is miserable since, yet again, he is unwanted with his strange Uncle Sherrinford and Aunt Anna. Just when Sherlock strikes up a friendship with the town's homeless scrounger Matty, Brother Mycroft sends an American man, Amyus Crowe, to tutor him through the summer - could it get any worse?
Things take a dramatic turn when Sherlock discovers the body of a man covered with mysterious swellings that raise fears of the plague and Sherlock is on his way to becoming the legend we know. The "death cloud" refers to the mysterious black cloud that covered the man and then dissipated leaving him dead. This is actually the second such death and he is determined to figure out what it is all about. He will have his life threatened and endangered several times as he discovers intrigue in the remote country side of England and follows the leads to London, and even into France.
Sherlock is somewhat a typical teenager and yet not. He is curious and very bright but his mind is not disciplined yet. Amyus Crowe, whose past is a bit murky, begins to challenge Sherlock in rational thinking and amassing knowledge. Sherlock has found a good and surprisingly loyal friend in the homeless Matty and is even becoming blushing friends with Amyus' daughter Virginia.
This is similar to Harry Potter in that it was written for young adults (in this case it says grades 6-9) but as an adult I was riveted. It had several instances of suspenseful action and daring-do. The stakes are surprisingly high and Sherlock and crew must ultimately save England.
The plot had several twists and I did not figure out all the turns before Sherlock did. I found myself literally cheering for Sherlock as he fought to escape danger or capture. The pacing of the story was spot-on. Moments to learn a bit about the teen Sherlock and then dramatic action, then a few slower moments which I felt were all balanced well for a consistent pace. There was no dragging middle at all. The ending was a suspenseful race to avert disaster and destroy the villain's sinister plan that had been set into motion.
There is not a single thing I can think of that would have made this exciting book any better. I feel that Andrew Lane is creating a young Sherlock that will easily live up to the daunting legend of the established and loved adult Sherlock. If you have ever enjoyed the books or any of the many film adaptations of Sherlock Holmes, you owe it to yourself to read this book. I think young adult children will enjoy his adventures immensely.