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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Dragon Turn, written by Shane Peacock. Tundra, 2011. $21.99 ages 10 and up

"When he thinks of his father he thinks of something he was taught long ago. "I am going to teach you about a word, son," Wilberforce once said. "That word is integrity. It has to do with honesty, but it is much more than that. It is about never lying to yourself, never doing what you know is wrong, making sure that what you say you believe in is what you do. I was you to always be a man of integrity."

Each time that a new The Boy Sherlock Holmes case book arrives in my mail, I ask myself the question...can Shane Peacock maintain the quality and the intrigue? You would think after four equally inventive, and exceptional cases, I would KNOW. This time, I didn't ask it. I just got right to the reading...and then kept reading until I breathed a sigh of contentment that, indeed, he has done it again!

Irene Doyle and Sherlock are agog following a night at the theatre. Alistair Hemsworth, a noted magician, ends his show with the appearance of a dragon, a writhing beast with golden wings. When the cage, the dragon and the magician's assistant disappear from the stage, the crowd erupts. Never have they seen such wonder! Sherlock doesn't believe the illusion but he cannot explain how it was done.

Irene wants a singing part in the magician's show and she convinces Sherlock to go backstage with her to meet the famous man. While there, Lestrade and his son (of the Scotland Yard) arrive to arrest said magician and charge him with the murder of a rival. The Wizard of Nottingham is not only a theatrical rival. It seems he is a romantic one, as well. Nottingham has stolen his wife...she found him irresistible it seems. Irene wants Sherlock to become involved with the case. Sherlock, for his part, has been trying to pull back from sleuthing at such a young age, and is attending school. Irene is adamant.

If you have read Shane Peacock's other case books you will know Sherlock to be very astute, organized and successful. He knows he wants to be a detective but he is trying to keep away from crime scenes for a time. Instead, he is feeding information to the young Lestrade who is always trying to impress his father. They are both sympathetic and somewhat vulnerable characters.

Sherlock finds Irene's plea hard to resist, and he sets about using the clues, and the people he meets to make sense of the murder. The other characters are well drawn, and absolutely necessary to the solution. I especially love Scuttle, a young street urchin:

"It is not only short, not much more than four feet tall, but so slender as to be skeletal. The eyes are sunken, the brow and cheekbones stick out, and the complexion, marked with filth, is bluish-white, like bones underneath the skin. The hair growing long and unkempt under a hat made of nothing but a brim, is the color of dirt. But those eyes are large and blue, and full of expression, the lips thick and active."

Scuttle is a great help to Sherlock as he tries to solve this newest mystery. I LOVE him, his quaint ideas and his peculiar language:

"That does not surprise me, sir. Even the Prince of Whales was intrigued by Scuttle's talk, 'e who makes foreign affairs with beautiful ladies who are married to other fine gentlemen, which England accepts, understanding 'is importance, and loving to 'ear of his romantics, as they are time-consummating and of fascination."

I admit to liking Beatrice Leckie more each time I meet her. Sigerson Bell is an eccentric, caring man who provides the guidance and support that Sherlock needs...his other father as it were. Irene Doyle has an important revelation as the book ends, leaving Sherlock to wonder about their future. While he longs for the peace and contentment that comes to others, he knows he has a greater calling and he is more ready for it today than he was yesterday.
Bravo, Shane Peacock! What an adventure...thank you!

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