Young Sherlock Holmes - Death Cloud
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
Young Sherlock Holmes -
Death Cloud is a 2010 children's book written by Andy Lane and follows
in the footsteps of Charlie Higson's Young James Bond novels to present
us with a schoolboy version of Conan Doyle's mythic hero Sherlock
Holmes - here grappling with his first mystery and flexing those
legendary embryonic deductive powers.
is a fast paced and generally entertaining book that younger readers
and curious Holmes enthusiasts should enjoy. The story is written in a
relatively prosaic manner but then you probably don't expect Martin
Amis when you pick up a book like this and the Victorian atmosphere and
depiction of life at school for Sherlock is certainly well done. It's a
bit Scooby Doo but I did like the central mystery here and had fun with
the book as far as it went.
'Young Sherlock Holmes - Death Cloud', our teenage hero is sent away to
live with relatives in Hampshire and befriends an Artful Dodger type
boy named Matty Arnatt. Matty was witness to a strange death involving
a dark cloud and Holmes is soon becoming drawn into his first major
'That was when he saw the
cloud of death. Not that he knew what it was, then. That would come
later. No, all he saw was a dark stain the size of a large dog that
seemed to drift from an open window like smoke, but smoke that moved
with a mind of its own, pausing for a moment and then flowing sideways
to a drainpipe where it turned and slid up towards the roof. Hunger
forgotten, Matthew watched open-mouthed as the cloud drifted over the
sharp edge of the roof tiles and vanished out of sight...'
is further embroiled in his first mystery when he finds a dead body on
the estate and is witness to the strange cloud of death himself. He
takes a sample of a strange substance he finds on the body of the dead
man and heads off to consult an expert in rare diseases.
Sherlock Holmes - Death Cloud is approached in a respectful and
affectionate manner in relation to the adult Holmes we are familiar
with. Dr Watson is not here because Holmes only met him in A Study In
Scarlet (the book is therefore written in the third person rather than
presented as one of Watson's files) and no Inspector Lestrade either.
of the main challenges of the author was to surround Holmes with a
memorable supporting cast without use of these familiar figures and he
does this pretty well. I especially liked the villain Baron Maupertuis
- who is gloriously over the top. The book has a smattering of blood
and a lot of chases and action but never steps over the line and
becomes too Young Indiana Jones Sherlock.
is more faithful to the canon than that enjoyable but flawed Young
Sherlock Holmes film and tries to sow the seeds of some of the
characteristics and quirks of the adult character. Holmes is not the
aloof eccentric of the Conan Doyle books but he is a loner who doesn't
quite know how to make friends. Lane introduces a mentor for him in the
shape of an American tutor named Amyus Crowe.
is in Britain on secret business for the US government but is hired by
Holmes' older brother Mycroft to teach him. Crowe is a wise old man
with a big beard who knows how to track people down and is a vast font
of practical knowledge. Holmes learns a great deal from Crowe that he
will put to use in his future crime fighting career.
who we were always led to suspect might be even more brilliant than his
younger brother, is well sketched out here and already on the ladder in
espionage circles. He's also very plump already (as described in the
novels) and much older than his younger brother.
early meeting between them at the school where Mycroft is impressed
when Holmes tells him he has deduced that he travelled in their
father's carriage. 'I noticed the parallel creases in your trousers
where the upholstery pressed them, and I remember that Father's
carriage has a tear in the upholstery that was repaired rather clumsily
a few years ago. The impression of that repair is pressed into your
trousers, next to the creases...'
moments like this are frequently the book at its most rewarding. Young
Sherlock Holmes - Death Cloud is a decent read and one I think that
children will like. Imagine a loose cross between Harry Potter and the
Young Bond novels and you are not a million miles away. It's a fair
sized read at over 300 pages and curious Holmes fans and younger
readers should enjoy this as a decent, old fashioned yarn that serves
as a fun riff on this most famous of characters.