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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Young Sherlock Holmes, written by Andrew Lane. Macmillan, H B Fenn. 2010. $12.99 ages 12 and up

"Sherlock sat. His muscles ached and his
ears still rang from the explosion, and his
eyes were dry and itchy. Somehow, he
felt different. Older. He'd seen some
people die, he'd caused people to die,
and he'd been drugged with laudanum,
and tortured with a whip. How could he
go back to Deepdene School for Boys

What do you do when you wake up at 2 am and don't seem destined to get back to sleep? Well, you could try reading Death Cloud, and I guarantee that sleep will remain elusive. That's the choice I made last night and although I am tired this afternoon, I loved every minute of the read.

Taking us back to Victoria England, the year is 1868 and Sherlock is fourteen. He's looking forward to time away from the boarding school he is attending and to seeing his family. It is not to be! While all boarders prepare to leave for home, Sherlock is called to the headmaster's office where he meets his brother, Mycroft. Things at home are not good. Mr. Holmes has been called to service in India, his mother is ill and Mycroft is working for the government in London. Sherlock will spend the summer with relatives in Hampshire. He  is distraught and discouraged. 

Upon reaching the Hampshire home, he is even more convinced that this is not where he wants to be. His aunt and uncle are eccentric, their housekeeper a mean and evil woman and there is little to keep a young adolescent boy occupied. Then, he meets Matty. Matty is a young runaway who lives in a boat on the river and brings excitement and adventure to Sherlock's lonely life. Matty tells Sherlock of a disturbing occurrence...something about a dark cloud that hovered near a dead body in town. And he meets Amyus Crowe...a tutor employed by Mycroft to help Sherlock keep up with his studies. While they are together, they discover another dead body and see the same kind of cloud that Matty has described. Ah, mysterious! . And he meets Virginia, Amyus Crowe's daughter. She is strong, willful, unafraid and quite intriguing, as far as Sherlock is concerned.

Soon they are all embroiled in a puzzle that includes two dead bodies, dust clouds near those bodies, a burned out warehouse, frightening and aggressive henchmen and an unusual and powerful leader named the Baron. It takes cunning, bravery, and a lot of heart pounding adventure to get to the bottom of the story and to thwart the evil doings of the Baron and his minions.

I earlier championed Shane Peacock's four Young Sherlock Holmes books. I loved every one of them. This book is not as dark and brooding as those; but it is full of adventure and danger. We see some of those traits that will help Sherlock become a famous and beloved detective. There is rarely a stop in the action, some of it brutal and disturbing, Sherlock and his cohorts remain positive and supportive each of the other. It is a great group of characters who share a story that will keep readers reading right to the last word.

Try it, I'm sure you will like it, too!

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