If you were the right age in 1985 you might remember the movie Young Sherlock in which Nicholas Rowe channels Indiana Jones rather than a young Basil Rathbone. My main memory of it is a scene in which the sweet-loving schoolboy Watson hallucinates an attack of pastries. So let me say straight off — no homicidal eclairs, drugs, or for that matter any sort of Watson populate the latest envisioning of a young Sherlock Holmes: Andrew Lane’s Death Cloud.
Instead there is a melancholy fourteen-year-old forced to spend his school holidays with remote relatives since his mother is unwell and his father off to India. An ominous housekeeper, a scruffy canal-boat friend, a pair of intriguing Yankees, some scary evil-doers, and a very-Conan-Doyle-like mystery keep our young hero on his toes throughout this very entertaining work. Since I’m currently making my through the Holmes canon (I find Victorian writing perfect to listen to while running), I was a bit skeptical at the outset, but quickly won over. While no Sherlockian, my impression is that Lane has done a nice job dusting his novel with elements from the actual Holmes tales in addition to providing a seemingly (there’s a bibliography at the end) well-researched window into British life under Victoria. Certainly, the story itself is as compelling as any of Conan Doyle’s.
My one slight raised eyebrow came when one of the Americans said that we rebelled against the British “Not by tricks and schemes and secret plans.” Hmmm….Boston Tea Party anyone? Since the next installment, Rebel Fire, is set across the pond I’m curious if this is in keeping with similar historical mishaps by Conan Doyle himself or wishful thinking on the part of Andrew Lane. However, that’s just me; young readers won’t care a whit (nor should they) and will just eagerly turn the page to see what happens next. And when done, like me, they will be impatient for the next in the series as Lane leaves many tantalizing threads unfinished.
7 responses to “Andrew Lane’s Death Cloud”
Can’t wait to read it myself. Thanks for a great review.
One of my college roommates auditioned for the role of Watson in Young Sherlock, and didn’t get it. So even though I thought the film was well done (albeit in the same sort of style that’s led to the Downey series today), I had to resent it out of loyalty to my pal.
I enjoyed this as well and will be posting a review of it shortly. However, I was very annoyed by the dialect of the two American characters–it seemed to me that a tutor who was teaching Greek and all the classics wouldn’t speak like that. Did that bug you or is it just me? LIke you, I’m not a big Holmes fan–never read any of the originals, so those who have might have a different perspective.
J.L. Well, at least he avoided the maniac creampuffs. My memory about it is very hazy except for that scene which I remember loving.
Margo, I noticed it, but they speak just like the Americans in the actual Holmes stories so I accepted it. Check out A STUDY IN SCARLET part of which is set in the Southwest. Lots of “reckons” and so on.
Young Sherlock Holmes recently got added to Netflix Streaming, so I’m planning to enjoy it and share it soon.
Ooh, my 9-year-old adored this book, to the point that he squirrelled it off somewhere and I can’t find it to review it! I never have enough middle grade boy mysteries.
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