AGERANGE: Ages 12 up.
The year is 1867; the place, London; the thirteen-year-old loner, Sherlock Holmes. Because his mother, a beautiful, formerly wealthy would-be opera singer, and his father, a brilliant Jewish scientist and bird-lover, eloped, the three are reduced to living in poverty: From a distance Sherlock appears elegant. Up close he looks frayed. Therefore, despite his staggering intelligence and keen powers of observation, Sherlock sees little hope for his future. Then one night a murder is committed and his entire life begins to change. The alleged murderer is soon caught: a young, defenseless Arab who proclaims his innocence to one person out of a huge crowd: Sherlock. For a reason later revealed, Sherlock believes him and determines to prove his innocence by finding the real killer. This decision has numerous consequences, from Sherlock himself landing in and hatching a nifty escape plan from prison, to placing his friends and family in jeopardy. Although he does ultimately solve the crime, the resulting sacrifice is almost unbearable. Peopled with a memorable cast of characters and written in a rich, compelling style, this first in the "Boy Sherlock Holmes" series will leave readers waiting anxiously for the next book. Reviewer: Naomi Milliner
Thirteen-year-old Sherlock Holmes spends much of his time reading the sensational newspapers of Victorian London. He is so intrigued by the murder of an actress that his persistent curiosity ends up making him a suspect in the case. Young Holmes finds himself on the lam trying to find the real murderer before an innocent boy is hanged and Holmes himself forever implicated. With the help of his amazing skills of observation and brilliant reasoning, plus a few interesting allies, Holmes solves his first case. Peacock creates a fascinating, plausible history for the most famous detective in literature. Young Holmes's skills are not as refined and he lacks the confidence of his adult literary counterpart, making the character presented in this book very believable as the adolescent version of the brilliant sleuth. Fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's works will appreciate the appearance of characters such as Inspector Lestrade and ponder the significance of a few others. Is Young Holmes' friend Irene Doyle destined to reappear in his life? Are the Trafalgar Square Irregulars forerunners of the Baker Street Irregulars who often assist the adult Holmes? The period detail is thorough and provides a rich reading experience without overwhelming the plot. The detailed map of Victorian London is a nice inclusion. There are points in the action where the boundaries of credibility are stretched, but overall it is an excellent mystery that will have readers eagerly awaiting the next title in The Boy Sherlock Holmes series. Reviewer: Heather Pittman
School Library Journal
Gr 5-9 Solitary and brooding, 13-year-old Sherlock Holmes prefers observing street life in 1860s London to attending school, and is skilled at appraising people. He's frustrated by his family's strained financial circumstances and the social prejudice that limits his future. His mother, once a wealthy socialite, married a poor Jewish scholar and was disowned by her parents. His brilliant father has been forced to take a job training birds at The Crystal Palace, and his urging Sherlock to become whatever he wishes seems hollow. The boy becomes obsessed with a gruesome murder, an interest that eventually lands him in jail as an accomplice to the primary suspect. There, he's visited by Irene Doyle, a young philanthropist who becomes his crime-solving partner. To prove his innocence, Sherlock makes a daring escape and sets about solving the crime. The details of the plot are plausible, the pacing well timed, and the historical setting vividly depicted. Past advice from Sherlock's father steers his thinking as he gathers clues and employs deductive processes. The titular crow comes fascinatingly into play, as Sherlock imagines himself as one of the birds that were the only witnesses to the crime. Inspector Lestrade and his son are introduced, as is Malefactor, a gang leader with a mysterious past who is Sherlock's intellectual equal and worthy opponent. On balance, the characters enrich the book and help give Holmes's storied abilities credence. The tragic death of his mother paves the way for his future pursuit of justice.-Sheila Fiscus, Our Lady of Peace School, Erie, PA