Author: Andrew Lane
Release date: 4th June 2010
Genre: Murder Mystery, Crime, Historical Fiction
Target audience: 10+
Summary from Amazon:
The year is 1868, and Sherlock Holmes is fourteen. His life is that of a perfectly ordinary army officer’s son: boarding school, good manners, a classical education – the backbone of the British Empire. But all that is about to change. With his father suddenly posted to India, and his mother mysteriously ‘unwell’, Sherlock is sent to stay with his eccentric uncle and aunt in their vast house in Hampshire. So begins a summer that leads Sherlock to uncover his first murder, a kidnap, corruption and a brilliantly sinister villain of exquisitely malign intent . . .
Young Sherlock Holmes: Death Cloud is a quirky, action-packed read which is just what you expect to find in a novel that explores a character of such high esteem in British literature.
This is Sherlock Holmes as you’ve never seen him before and it makes entertaining reading. The story begins with Sherlock at Deepdene School waiting to be collected by his father to return home to London for the summer holidays. Unfortunately, he is summoned to the Headmaster’s study to be told that alternative arrangements for his holiday have been made. His older brother Mycroft is there to deliver this depressing news. Poor Sherlock is going to stay with his Uncle Sherrinford for the duration of the school break. Sherlock is far from happy about this news but as a true Brit, he has perfected the stiff upper lip and effectively gets on with it. He arrives at Holmes Manor and meets his aunt and uncle. The news gets worse for poor Sherlock when he discovers his brother recommended that he have a tutor for the summer – Amyus Crowe.
Sherlock now thinks his summer is doomed to be boring but then two twists of fate turn his fortune. The first, he makes a friend in Matty Arnatt – a boy who has witnessed a shocking death. The second, his tutor is the farthest from his experience of schooling than he could ever imagine, and so begins the real story about uncovering a bizarre mysterious death.
The novel explores how Sherlock learns to use the skills of deduction and observation. His tutor encourages a logical way of thinking and often Sherlock remembers phrases that Mycroft has told him and these help him piece together the mystery.
Reading this novel I was struck by the number of facts that the author managed to cram in. Young Sherlock seemed to me to be very much a book for boys with its attention to the minute detail and the almost obsession with logical thinking. Yet I know girls have enjoyed this book because they have told me and were so enthused by it that I decided to read it.
I really enjoyed the beginning and the ending because it was shaped with humour. I found the middle rather slow and yet it was full of action scenes. Again, I think this is because it is aimed at boys. I always switch off during battles (both if I am reading or if I am watching a film) and so I doubt this is a weakness of the book. I suspect it is the reverse really.
I commend Andrew Lane for the plotting of the crime. I was clueless as to what was behind the murders. Thank goodness Young Sherlock could use his logic and deduction to work it out for me. At the end of Death Cloud we are left with one mystery unresolved. There is certainly more to come from this crime sleuth in training. This book is undoubtedly a hit. There is great characterisation and great friendships which connect you with the gruesome story and keep you reading on.
NB: An interesting thing that happened yesterday at school. A student returned this book after only having it out for one day. I asked him if he didn’t it. He said he didn’t understand it. The prologue confused him. He thought Matty had turned into Sherlock. So he decided to give up on it. This just goes to illustrate the point: never include a prologue unless it is a matter of life and death. Just get on and tell the story.