I was ecstatic when a mystery package, popped through the mail slot a month or so ago, turned out to contain Death Cloud. I had been eyeing it up on various blogs and websites for awhile but for whatever reason it had not appeared in any of the usual bookstores I shop in, so short of making an Amazon or Book Depository order for it, I was out of luck.
Now back in the day (dude I am soo going to date myself here), I was a big fan of the Young Indiana Jones TV series. I distinctly remember thinking Sean Patrick Flannery was spectacularly dreamy, and the show was pretty good too. I especially liked seeing how Henry became Indie, all the little foibles of growing up and how they came together to make him this cool geek-adventurer. And it was this fond remembrance of the Young Indiana Jones, coupled with the terrific modern take of Sherlock Holmes in the 2009 Robert Downey Jr/Jude Law movie that had me intrigued on how Andrew Lane would approach this beloved character.
Let me give you some back context on Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Holmes starred in four novels and fifty-six short stories, debuting in 1887, and wrapping up in 1927. To read them now it's amazing how current they still seem in many ways, and the characters of Holmes and Watson and their relationship, are really what makes the stories tick. Since Conan Doyle's estate still owns some of the copyrights to Sherlock Holmes, so it was only with their approval that Andrew Lane could write the Young Sherlock Holmes series. They agreed to him authoring them based on his extreme love and amazing knowledge of the original stories.
Death Cloud was impressive, Young Sherlock was both what I expected and more. Obviously not nearly as bohemian and eccentric at 14 years old, he still showed a disregard for rules and their consequences when broken, as well as the beginnings of his famed ego. Since it would be at odds with the original books to have him know Watson at this age, a different companion is introduced, Matthew Arnatt, a penniless orphan who's making his way and fending for himself. It's through Matthew that Sherlock begins his introductions to the lower element of society which is one of his many areas of expertise later down the line.
The story was very reminiscent of a Sherlock Holmes mystery, containing equal parts action/adventure, and seemingly impossible puzzles which all boiled down to asking the right questions of the right people and some serious book smarts to boot. Andrew Lanes wealth of Holmes knowledge shines though in the details. Both Sherlocks later interest in Bees, and his dabbling in drugs are given small seedling beginnings in this tale, and his friendship and interest in an american girl named Virginia hints at a later reveal to why adult Sherlock is not especially fond of the fairer sex.
I liked this story enough to inspire a need to read more of the original Sherlock Holmes, and to make me excited for part two- Red Leech, releasing this summer/early fall. More than anything though, I look forward to Death Cloud inspiring a whole new young fan base who'll grow into the original Sherlock Holmes already made ardent followers by Lane's faithful prequels.
Death Cloud (Young Sherlock Holmes), by Andrew Lane
Published by Macmillan Children's February 2011
Buy Death Cloud on Amazon
Check out the Young Sherlock Holmes site