Newest Review: ... story. I do feel that these books lean far more to the adventure, and contain far less mystery, but that is appropriate to the tar... more
Another good book for boys.
Young Sherlock Holmes: Death Cloud - Andrew Lane
Member Name: broxi3781
Young Sherlock Holmes: Death Cloud - Andrew Lane
Advantages: Good story with plenty of adventure and action.
Disadvantages: Not quite as good as the books by Higson, Horowitz or Muchamore
My oldest is only 7, and while he loved the Young Bond series, he did not really take an interest in this book. That is fair enough, I do believe 7 is well below the target age for this book, and I feel it is something he will enjoy in a few years. I also think if he had not discovered graphic novels, he would have taken a great deal more interest in this now, but as it is, his main interest now is super heroes. I did enjoy the book though, and I even bought the second book in the series, which I am reading now, but I can't really say it compares with Higson's books. That isn't to say it is a bad book, only that Higson's books are truly head and shoulders above any of the competition.
If you buy this book expecting to read something in the style of Arthur Conan Doyle, you will be deeply disappointed. Andrew Lane's writing style is completely different, and I feel it is for the best that he has not made attempts to ape Doyle. It is very unlikely he would have been able to pull it off anyway. Instead he has created his own set of stories, using Doyle's character's name, and the basic premise of a mystery and adventure story. I do feel that these books lean far more to the adventure, and contain far less mystery, but that is appropriate to the target age group.
This book attempts to show us the young Sherlock Holmes as he develops, from a fairly typical upper class British schoolboy to a budding detective. A large part of Sherlock's development is due to the tutor chosen for him by his older brother Mycroft Holmes. Mycroft has retained the services of a rather unique teacher, Amyus Crowe, an American who also tutored Mycroft, and it seems doubles as some sort of a bounty hunter as well. Mycroft is meant to have a desk job with the foreign office, but one begins to suspect there is a bit more to it than this. There are several loose ends here which are never tied up. Why has Mycroft chosen such an unusual form of education for his brother? Is he training him to be an agent or spy of some sort? What of their parents - it seems the father is an Army officer serving in India, and their mother is "unwell", but neither parent seems to take any role in the boys care or upbringing at all. Instead he is moved from a boarding school to a previously unknown relative, and placed under the tutelage of Mr Crowe.
Be it a coincidence or not, Mr Crowe's first lesson is cut short by the discovery of a dead body, covered with red welts. This book is not so much a "who done it?", as the guilty culprit becomes obvious fairly early on. The method of killing is most unusual, but again, this is also discovered very quickly. The real mystery lies in why. Why was this man, and another victim killed - what is the larger plan, and most importantly - how can it be stopped? Young Sherlock will meet a reliable friend, Matty Arnatt, as well as his tutors daughter - Virginia. Whether he draws his tutor into this mystery - or the mysterious Crowe draws Holmes further into it remains a mystery, but Crowe is obviously more than a simple tutor.
Ideally, I would say this story would best suit boys of perhaps ages 9 - 14. That said, I quite enjoyed the book myself. It is a good story, well written, and the author is able to draw the reader into the setting very well. There is a good bit of action and adventure - although perhaps not quite as much mystery as I would have liked. I very much enjoy books that keep you guessing for awhile. The villain is very much all bad. He has no redeeming qualities whatsoever, but he does have some very unusual characteristics. He would make a perfect comic book bad guy. But beyond the fights and adventure, there is a nice story of friendship worked in. In addition, there are snippets of science and history worked into the story, even a very tiny, but exceptionally good bit on patriotism, and what it means to be British. This may only take up a couple of lines, but it makes the book worth purchasing in my opinion. There is also a brilliant little brain teaser. It shows you that the way you phrase a question can very much affect your ability to answer it - and if you are stuck on something - perhaps you hneed to find a new way of phrasing the question. I can't say this book is highly educational, but I think the average reader will learn something. For the most part though, it just a good story that is a pleasure to read.
Finally, the author clearly points out at the end of the book, that his goal was to show Sherlock Holmes before he became a famous detective, to show what factors formed the mind of this world famous sleuth. His idea is for people to understand what he was like as a teenager, where his likes and interests came from, and what started him on his career as a detective. This book is just a small start in these areas, but he does create a background suitable for the future Sherlock Holmes. The character is well developed, so that you get a feeling of his personality, and he is very likable. But would the story be just as good had he given the character another name? In my opinion it would have been. He could just easily have written this about any young boy in this era with a healthy sense of curiosity, and unhealthy tolerance to danger, and a set of most unusual circumstances.
I have wavered quite a bit on what rating to give this book. I don't feel it is as good as Charlie Higson's works, but then I don't any other writer in this genre can match Higson. I would also rate Anthony Horowitz and Robert Muchamore a bit higher. I would prefer to give this a 4.5. It is a good book, which I feel will appeal to readers over a very wide age range, but not quite on a par with the very finest in this genre. A few parts are very far fetched and a bit like comic books, but I feel that this appeals to the target age range, and it is certainly no more far fetched than some of Young Bond's adventures, or Alex Rider's. I was all set to give this four stars, but re reading that little snippet on what is to be British and thinking of the wee brain teaser - that has pushed this over the edge for me, and I will give this a full 5 stars, especially considering the low price of this book.
I paid £2.45 for this, including all postage costs. Used copies are currently selling for £ 2.69 on ebay, and £2.81 from Amazon, with new copies available on Amazon Marketplace at £2.81 as well. Kindle editions sell for £0.94. At this price, I feel the book is quite a bargain for a light enjoyable read that would suit mature children or immature adults such as myself :)
Summary: A good light read with a few great sections.
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