My thanks to Erin and Drew for this most appreciated and wonderful gift, received when I arrived at their house to spend a lovely holiday with them. It has captured my attention from the first page and I am even more convinced that I must spend some time reading more of Sir Arthur's tales. I must admit that my intrigue with Sherlock Holmes grew exponentially through reading Shane Peacock's Young Sherlock Holmes cases, published by Tundra Books. All five cases have held my interest start to finish, and I am quick to recommend them to young readers looking for mysterious and mesmerizing stories. I am also a fan of Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes movies, and have been interested in seeing the many connections made between text and film.
This story by acclaimed and prolific author Horowitz has the full endorsement of the Conan Doyle estate and is the first time they have granted a contemporary author the approval to write a new Holmes novel. He has done so, with aplomb, wit and a researcher's skilled eye for keeping to the tenor of its many predecessors.
The pace is frenetic, the plot twists gripping and the book full of language that encourages readers to
return to such passages as this one:
"There were times when I thought him dead. Only a week before, indeed, I had observed him helpless and delirious supposedly the victim of a coolie disease from Sumatra. Then there was that time at Poldhu Bay in Cornwall where, had I not dragged him from the room he would certainly have succumbed to madness and self-destruction. I recall my vigil with him in Surrey when a deadly swamp adder came slithering out of the darkness. And could I complete this brief list without reminding myself of the utter despair, the sense of emptiness that I felt when I returned, alone, from the Reichenbach Falls? And yet, all of these pale in comparison with that night in Bluegate Fields. Poor Holmes. I see him now, recovering consciousness to find himself surrounded, under arrest and quite unable to explain to himself or anyone else what had just taken place. It was he who had chosen, willingly, to walk into a trap. This was the unhappy result."
The London setting and his bleak atmospheric descriptions recall other tales, and the heartbreaking conditions for children of the time. It is the death of one such boy that sets Sherlock on a mission to discover his murderers. In doing so, he becomes the target for a secret society of powerful men who will stop at nothing to keep those secrets.
In solving this extraordinary case, Holmes makes some decisions for his future and Watson reflects on them:
"From this, and from other indications in his behavior - he mentioned, for example, that he might never call upon the services of the Baker Street Irregulars again - I gathered that he still blamed himself, in part, for the boy's death, and that the scenes we had witnessed that night on Hamworth Hill had left an indelible mark on his consciousness. Nobody knew evil like Holmes, but there are some evils that it is better not to know, and he could not enjoy even the rewards of his success without being reminded of the dark places to which it had taken him. I could understand this. I had bad dreams myself. But I had Mary to consider, and a medical practice to run. Holmes found himself trapped in his own particular world, forced to dwell on things he would rather forget."
I think you should read it, and it is certainly is one of those books I would suggest to mystery-loving high school students who don't mind a dark and gritty read.