Monday, December 3, 2012

Death Cloud

Death Cloud (Sherlock Holmes: The Legend Begins Series #1)

by Andrew Lane

336 pages
Middle School+

Fourteen-year-old Sherlock Holmes is expecting his father to pick him up for the summer holidays when his summer is turned topsy turvy.  His father is going off with the army, his sister is sick and need complete peace, and his older brother has no time for him.  So instead of spending the summer at his home, he is sent to an uncle in the country, a tedious and unwelcome solution.  Sherlock is expecting this summer to be completely boring and uneventful.  

Instead, Sherlock is immediately embroiled in plot and intrigue.  Mysterious clouds that don't move naturally show up just after someone is killed. Strange men are moving boxes filled with clothing in secretive manner. And Sherlock isn't quite sure who to trust.  Sherlock must assemble all the puzzle pieces before he gets himself, and others, killed.  

While this book had a slow beginning, it later picked up the pace and was quite fun to read.  At first, Sherlock's character seemed flat and not quite what I expected from the great Sherlock Holmes.  Sherlock showed little emotion beyond annoyance and let things happen to him, instead of being active.  Also, he seemed unable to make connections that readers expect Sherlock to be able to make.  Since the character is only fourteen years old, this might be understandable, especially since he is still learning all the skills that Sherlock needs in order to become the character of the Doyle novels.  But he seemed very weak and more like the typical teen, where the older Sherlock is NOT like the typical adult at all.  Eventually, he starts learning how to observe and make connections, and of course solves the mystery at great peril to his own life, but he took a lot of time to get there.  

Readers should not expect a novel exactly like the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novels.  In addition to the noted differences above, the novel is much more modern in writing style; it reads like many other contemporary teen novels, not like a classic.  This can be a good introduction for teens to the Victorian mystery genre, but it is definitely different than the older novels.

Overall, I believe I will recommend this, especially for boys needed a mystery book.  Once I got past my expectations for the novel, I enjoyed it.  It was fun to see how Sherlock finally placed all the pieces together. There was plenty of action at the end to keep the reader's attention, plus several twists that kept me eager to read, after the slow beginning.  This novel is the first in a series.  The sequel is already out: Rebel Fire. I look forward to finding that book to!  I hope that since the background has been established, the story will pick up right away!

Quick note: This is one of the first books to be endorsed by the estate of Arthur Conan Doyle.  Many other series have been written to try to fill in the blanks of Holmes' life, but this is one of the first to be endorsed by Doyle's estate!

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