Review Blog

Aug 19 2010

Young Sherlock Holmes: Death Cloud by Andrew Lane

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Macmillan Children's Books 2010.
(Ages 11+) If James Bond can have an adolescence celebrated in fiction, then why can't Sherlock Holmes too? Andrew Lane, a lifelong Holmes fan worked with the Conan Doyle Estate to create Death Cloud, the first of three novels that will star the young detective.
Lane hams it up to the heights of devilry and gothic horror with a preposterous plot to kill British soldiers and so destroy the power of the British Empire. It works because we already know that Sherlock Holmes is larger than life and because the outlandish storyline is well constructed and steeped in a lovingly researched and historically accurate setting.
Lane really brings Victorian London to life with all its gruesome sights and foul smells. At one point Sherlock is trying to escape the ruffians chasing him through tunnels beneath the Thames, with hair raising action and descriptions that made my skin crawl.
Baron Maupertuis is surely one of the most grotesque and outrageous villains ever created and the fact that he escapes undefeated sets the scene for Sherlock's next adventure, due later in the year.
Sherlock himself is a delightful melting pot of idealistic, arrogant and heroic youth. At fourteen years old we are offered glimpses into his future character as he first experiences the doubtful pleasures of Laudanum. Also hinted at are the obsessive and addictive personality streaks that become apparent in adulthood. Dr Watson is represented by Matty Arnatt, a street urchin with whom Sherlock develops a close friendship. With help from Sherlock's American tutor, his feisty daughter and Matty, the quartet wreak havoc on the Baron's attempts to bring down the British Empire.
My only complaint is that I doubt a Victorian girl (all be it an American one) would refer to her Father and friends as 'You guys.' However, it's a quibble really and I'm sure able readers of 11 plus will enjoy this foray into the life of young Sherlock and will hopefully seek out Conan Doyle's stories as a result.
Claire Larson

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