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Monday, November 12, 2012

Becoming Holmes, written by Shane Peacock. Tundra, Random House. 2012. $21.99 ages 12 and up

"That is what Sherlock will investigate further - any unusual out-of-doors and after-hours movements on the Governor's part. The boy decides that he will stay here all evening, even into the night, and see if anyone suspicious comes to the door or if the Governor goes out. He hopes he will be in luck. He keeps thinking about Lady Stonefield's sad expression, her black clothing..."

What an ending to a fabulous series of books about the young Sherlock Holmes! Shane Peacock has made each of his 'case files' so powerful that fans will be sad to say goodbye to the young man destined to be the famous and dogged detective of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle works.

If you haven't read the others, I encourage you to take the time to find them and set yourself the enviable task of watching Sherlock grow from young boy to the man who becomes the esteemed investigator whose life work is to rid the world of evil. Shane Peacock has done a cracking job of  sharing the brutalities of Victorian London and the early evidence of those traits and quirks that make Sherlock Holmes a storied detective.

I didn't always love reading mysteries: tales such as these penned by a master storyteller have made me a fan. I am sorry to be saying goodbye to this dark and tortured character, to Sigerson Bell, to the setting and people of London, to Irene, to Beatrice, to both Lestrades, to Grimsby, to Crew and even to Malefactor. I will miss each one, for various and distinctly different reasons. The writing is impeccable and oh, so worthy of the awards it is racking up for Shane Peacock:

"But the blackness has been with him for too long this time. He cannot shake it. Death and disappointment are all around him, and they are not going away. He is desperate to climb up from the depths. He needs a thrill. He thinks of the dangerous crimes he has solved, recalls the heart-pumping sensation of being near murder, and wonders, for a fleeting second, if he, Sherlock Holmes, about to become a man, should kill someone, someone evil."

Shane Peacock has done such a remarkable job of letting his readers know who Sherlock will become, a man worthy of admiration. He's dedicated, independent, articulate, skilled in the martial arts that Sigerson Bell has been teaching him, and almost eerie in his ability to take a situation and deduce from it much more than any other person might. He knows that his great friend, the apothecary Sigerson Bell, is dying; he has no other real friends and he is wondering where life might lead him.

As in each of the other books, Sherlock needs a case. He needs something to capture his attention and to put his formidable talents to work. As usual, Malefactor is at its core. When he discovers that Grimsby has found employment in his brother's treasury department, he is astounded and more than a mildly appalled:

"I smell a rat."
"I would pluralize that! There is a rather larger one at work here too, boss to this Grimsby, who used to live on the streets with his fellow Rodentia, exceeding six feet tall and wearing a tailcoat."
"But Malefactor has disappeared. You haven't seen him for nearly a year and then only briefly. He spoke of attending a university, did he not? Becoming respectable?"
"In order to be more effective."

What follows is a game that pits Sherlock against Malefactor (whose real name is Moriarty) and his minions. While they respect each other's brilliance and power, they fight on different sides and only one can emerge the winner. It proves just the diversion Sherlock needs to bring him out of his depths of despair and get him on course to becoming the man his great friend Sigerson Bell knows he will be:

"You, sir," says Bell, "were like a gift to me. And you can be a gift to humankind. You believe in the right things. I shall leave you to it. I shall leave you to being the sword of justice that this city, this country, this world needs. I believe in you. You are destined for greatness. It need not be anything that you broadcast to the world, though I imagine you will, since you have a sprightly sense of yourself, my boy, which powers you at times. You will find a way, a person, perhaps, to tell everyone how great you are."


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