Young Sherlock Holmes: The Death Cloud by Andy Lane
My rating: 3.25 of 5 stars
I'm going to put this book in the 'not bad, but could have been better' classification. I have my own perceptions about how young Sherlock Holmes would be and this one isn't real close to my ideas. Yeah, I'm not sure I can clarify that right now, so I won't try. I just found the book disappointing in how it did craft young Holmes.
I did like the fact that Holmes has a mentor in an American who brings to mind a cross between Mark Twain and Wyatt Earp/Doc Holiday. Mr. Crow helps to develop Holmes' signature traits, deductive reasoning and a keenly analytical mind. It was interesting seeing how Holmes went from being a 'whatever/why is this important?' kid to the man who has an insatiable curiosity about the world and the burning desire to solve any puzzle that he encounters. I also liked Holmes' sidekick Matty Arnett. I have a feeling he will be accompanying Sherlock on more adventures in this series, and I'm very cool with that. I'd also like to see more of Mr. Crow. His daughter, Virginia, doesn't have quite as concrete a role, other than the horse-mad hoyden, would-be love interest, and perhaps, her tendency to bring out the impulsive adventurer in Sherlock.
What surprised me was how violent this book is. Personally, I would be wary about letting a child younger than thirteen read this. There are some fairly descriptive acts of brutality that I think would be a bit much for a younger reader. I was concerned that the exceedingly villainous bad guys who would torture a kid with a bullwhip in a book for a younger audience. It's a pretty drawn out scene too. Not to mention a nasty fist fight that Sherlock finds himself involved in, along with numerous altercations with the Big Bad's minions who have no qualms about murdering youngsters.
The main bad guy is suitably majestic, and really quite outre' in his madness and character quirks, almost over the top, in fact. I guess that could be fun, but his bombastic speech about wreaking vengeance against the British Empire was a bit tedious. Sometimes I get impatient with the "I am an Evil Overlord" speeches.
A big issue I did have was the pacing. I don't know. It just seemed uneven. I liked the action bits, for the most part, but I wasn't keen on how long it took Sherlock to figure things out. I realize that he's a young kid and he's just in the beginning of his long career as a detective, but I think he could have been a bit brighter in some circumstances. Happily, there is a good progression in his character over the course of the book.
Yeah, I know it, it's a problem of having too high expectations. Why do I do that to myself? That can burst a bubble or two for a reader. Would I recommend this? Hmmm, only if you really want to read about a young Sherlock Holmes, and your expectations aren't too grand. If you happen to be at the library and you can't find another book with a young detective to read, then you could reach for this one and it wouldn't be too much of a waste of your free time to read.
Overall rating: 3.25/5.00 stars.
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