Book Review: Young Sherlock Holmes

Young Sherlock Holmes

As a reviewer and Holmes enthusiast, I’ve read a vast number of Sherlock Holmes novels meant for adults, and I’ve encountered quite a few meant  for children. The Young Sherlock Holmes Series by Andrew Lane, of which I have several volumes, is somewhat unusual because it fits into the middle, with a preteen to teenaged target audience similar to Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl Series.

Through the stories, Lane provides a rich sensory experience, introducing the young reader to period-accurate details of life in the late 1800s. I was particularly struck by the visceral description of life in a boys’ boarding school. As the action intensifies, the reader is carried along by this attention to detail, through mysteries that will stretch the imagination and give the reader a chance to unravel the truth along with Sherlock Holmes–mysteries that are just gruesome enough, but not too much for the older preteen or teenaged reader.

Speaking of Holmes, his character is well fleshed out and develops in a believable way toward the dichotomies of reason and emotion in his personality. As with any book that explores the detective in his early life, certain decisions have to be made about what, exactly, made him who he is–an issue that most who write about the adult Holmes can either skirt or avoid altogether. Lane’s decisions have structural integrity within the story and build toward the character we know and love. Additionally, the richly-drawn world of Young Sherlock Holmes is complemented by complex original characters and believable appearances by familiar ones.

Some of the events depicted in the series are likely to be too intense for the youngest readers, but preteens, teens, and adults who enjoy reading about the early life of Sherlock Holmes will enjoy detailed stories and the beginning of the career of a remarkable character. Recommended for the young and young at heart, this series is still being written, and more volumes are expected.

Learn about the world of Young Sherlock Holmes and purchase the books here

The above-reviewed work was provided for consideration by the publisher. Opinions expressed are the reviewer’s own.

How to purchase my Sherlock Holmes novels:

(Book 1) The Detective and the Woman: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

(Book 2) The Detective, The Woman and The Winking Tree: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

(Book 3) The Detective The Woman and The Silent Hive is available from all good bookstores including   Amazon USAAmazon UKWaterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide from Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Amazon Kindle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review: The Abominable Bride

Warning: Spoilers ahead

  

England is England yet, for all our fears–

Only those things the heart believes are true.

Vincent Starrett, 221B

The poem 221B by Vincent Starrett is treasured among Sherlockians for its final line, which reminds young and old that “it is always 1895,” but Sherlock’s first holiday special turns my mind to the lines above even more. The Abominable Bride is not really an episode about plot, though it has a good one, and it’s not about advancing the overall arc of the series very much. Instead, it’s about the things the heart believes are true, specifically the heart of Sherlock Holmes. Mycroft Holmes once asked, long ago, in A Scandal in Belgravia, “What might we deduce about his heart?” This episode answers that question.

In the early days of publicity, we were told that the story would be a complete one-off, fully Victorian and unrelated to the series arc as a whole. In recent days, a low-key change occurred, in which cast and showrunners began teasing a series connection after all. The episode began with a confirmation of this in the form of a montage showing the viewer a quick timeline of everything that has happened in the series so far, surely a strange choice if the episode wasn’t going to connect to it. Immediately after, however, we were thrown into an immersive Victorian world, complete with a Doyle-heavy origin story and new-old versions of our favorite characters (with the exception of Vinette Robinson’s Sally, whom I was sad to miss).

The case is brought by a mutton-chop-sporting Lestrade, who introduces Holmes and Watson to the Abominable Bride herself (played by the phenomenal Natasha O’Keeffe), a wedding anniversary murderess-suicide who somehow appears to have risen from the dead to kill her husband—and happens to have killed herself in the exact same way we saw Moriarty kill himself earlier in the series.

What follows is a fairly straightforward investigation that echoes both the style the BBC Series has established and Doylean canon tropes. Two reveals were particularly enjoyable—Mark Gatiss’s Mycroft, bearing the girth and sloth of Doyle’s version, and morgue director Molly in male disguise. At the same time as the case progresses, however, there’s an intrusive subplot that keeps weaving its way through—the female voice in the Victorian Era, with a frustrated Mrs. Hudson going on a silence strike, an angry Mary Watson taking employment without her husband’s knowledge, and a particularly outspoken maid. Hovering above all this is a cryptic tease by Mycroft about an unseen army that needs to win.

It all seems pretty straightforward until it doesn’t. Suddenly, the modern photo of Irene Adler surfaces, and characters begin speaking in increasingly anachronistic terms. The action sequence with the Bride seems like it should be climactic, but it really isn’t, and it’s not meant to be. A Victorian Mind Palace sequence culminates in a visit from Andrew Scott’s Moriarty at his creepy best, and the truth starts to emerge: The case isn’t about the case at all, and furthermore, it’s not even real—the whole thing is a drug-induced delve into Sherlock’s Mind Palace, an attempt to use an unsolved mystery to solve an all-too-modern one.

Knowing this Shyamalan-level twist changes the entire framing of the episode as a whole. No longer are we seeing a surprisingly clever Victorian John; we’re seeing the idea of Watson who lives in Sherlock’s brain. The same is true for each character, and, in turn, they reveal different aspects of Sherlock’s psychology.

The episode’s pre-climax takes place when Holmes unveils the Victorian feminist society that produced the Bride. I’ve seen various confusion and criticism about this, but it’s not a real thing, and it’s not meant to be seen that way. Again, it’s a part of Sherlock’s mind, the working-out of guilt over the women he’s wronged, a gallery led by Molly and including Janine, with whom he engaged in a fake romance. The scene has strong similarities to Sherlock’s courtroom Mind Palace from earlier in the series.

The true climax occurs when the Bride unveils herself and turns out to be Moriarty. As a modern-time, but still dreaming, Sherlock frantically digs up the real-life Bride’s grave to find two corpses (a reference to Lady Frances Carfax), he’s plunged into the canonical version of Reichenbach, a showdown with Moriarty on the edge of the falls.

Except, this time, it doesn’t end the same way. In an echo of long-ago episode A Study in Pink, Watson appears at exactly the right moment and kills Moriarty himself. This is entirely symbolic, Sherlock’s mind finally exorcising the ever-present Moriarty, who has come to represent his weaknesses, by realizing that he will never have to confront his failings alone because he has John by his side.

The end of the episode doesn’t tell us much beyond the fact that Holmes understands the next phase in the (truly dead) Moriarty’s plan and that he’s still using a drugs on occasion, a fact that deeply concerns his brother Mycroft, whose combination of care and anger throughout the episode was played beautifully by Mark Gatiss. We’re left on a cliffhanger, not in a very different place from where we began, but also worlds away from where we began.

Much as The Sign of Three explored the relationship between Holmes and Watson, The Abominable Bride explores Sherlock’s relationship to himself—his fear that he’s far less clever than he’d like to be, his ambivalence about his lack of conformity, and his deep-seated terror of weakness. Ultimately, the series stays absolutely faithful to its own heartbeat, allowing its protagonist to finally, and fully, realize that his hope lies in human connection and in the friendship of his Boswell. The Abominable Bride is the fulfillment of The Reichenbach Fall. The man who fell alone can now fly because he’s not alone any more.

Here dwell together still two men of note 

Who never lived and so can never die

In the context of the series, the Victorian Holmes and Watson of The Abominable Bride never lived, but Starrett said it best: They still dwell together, seated by their Baker Street fire, where Sherlock’s heart, and mine, believe they will live forever.

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How to purchase my Sherlock Holmes novels:

(Book 1) The Detective and the Woman: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

(Book 2) The Detective, The Woman and The Winking Tree: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

(Book 3) The Detective The Woman and The Silent Hive is available from all good bookstores including   Amazon USAAmazon UKWaterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide from Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Amazon Kindle.

Sherlockian Gift Guide: The Sherlock Chronicles

Gift Target: Any fan of the BBC’s Sherlock

Sherlock Chronicls

It’s gorgeous, it’s engaging, and absolutely every Sherlock fan should own it. The Sherlock: Chronicles is a wonderfully detailed homage to the production of the hit series, and it’s now available in the United States in time to purchase it for all of the Sherlockians in your life.

It’s a coffee table-style book with gorgeous behind-the-scenes photos, background information, and details about the cast and crew. All too often making-of tomes are ridiculously facile collections of information and photos that every fan has seen a thousand times. This book is the opposite, containing unique information, original artwork, beautiful set pictures, and analysis of every angle of the show from the people who make it.

I would go so far as to say that this is the #1 holiday gift for any fan of this series. Highly recommend

Sherlock: Chronicles is available for purchase here

A copy of this work was provided by the publisher. All the raves are the reviewer’s own delighted opinion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sherlockian Gift Guide: Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls

As Christmas approaches, I’ll be highlighting books, and possibly other items, that will be of particular interest to Holmes aficionados. My first look is at Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls by Elizabeth Varadan.

Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls 

Gift Target: Children, the Young at Heart

Imogene

Children’s literature is a far trickier genre than it appears to be. As CS Lewis famously asserted, a book isn’t worth a child’s time if it isn’t worth an adult’s time.

Elizabeth Varadan has crafted a story that is certainly aimed at, and appropriate for, children, but I found myself getting pulled into Imogene’s world as well. Layers of Victorian charm and detail are present, but they are presented from a perspective of a smart and opinionated young girl. I’m reminded of two very different series: The American Girl Samantha books and the Flavia de Luce mysteries, the hit series by Alan Bradley.

Like the books starring Samantha, Imogene is educational without feeling overly preachy or digressing into tangents that would alienate middle-grade readers. Without necessarily realizing it, children will be introduced to Victorian family life, clothing, class system, and a myriad of other historical details woven organically into the tale.

The Flavia de Luce mysteries are darker tales aimed toward adults but starring a young girl with a distinctive voice. Imogene’s personality is equally vivid, and while her mystery stays in territory more appropriate for children, it is equally entertaining. Children benefit from reading about clever, self-actualized characters of their own age, and Imogene is an excellent female example.

Finally, Imogene would be a wonderful introduction for young readers into the world and character of Sherlock Holmes. Varadan presents him through her title character’s eyes, a tall detective who makes her “think of an exclamation point.” One of Holmes’s most humanizing characteristics in the Doyle canon is his affinity with children, and that his on display here, free of sentiment but with touching detail.

Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls is an entertaining and well-written story that will delight children–and the adults who gift it to them. Highly recommended.

Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls is available at Amazon.

A copy of this work was provided by the publisher. All opinions expressed are the reviewer’s own.

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How to purchase my Sherlock Holmes novels:

(Book 1) The Detective and the Woman: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

(Book 2) The Detective, The Woman and The Winking Tree: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

(Book 3) The Detective The Woman and The Silent Hive is available from all good bookstores including   Amazon USAAmazon UKWaterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide from Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Amazon Kindle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revisiting Sherlock’s Unaired Pilot

  
For the first time in about three years, I just rewatched Sherlock‘s unaired pilot episode (available as part of the Series 1 DVD/Blu-Ray set). If you’re a fan of the series and haven’t watched it, I highly recommend a look at the hour-long story, which plays as a slightly AU version of the series’s first episode, A Study in Pink.

Notable things to watch for –

1. Hipsterlock: Sherlock is a floppy-haired, denim-clad London boy with a flat full of 90s-esque decor. It’s not hard to understand why, for the full series, the production decided to go a far more stylized route, but it’s massively entertaining to imagine the postgrad schlubbiness that might have been.

2. Emotional realism: In the aired version of A Study in Pink, John Watson begins to trust and defend Sherlock quite quickly, choosing not to take up Mycroft’s offer to spy on him and repudiating Holmes’s detractors when they come to his flat to search for illegal drugs. In spite of the pilot’s shorter runtime, the arc of John’s serious doubts turning to sincere trust is clearer, and his decision to bet on Holmes in the end has slightly more visceral emotional weight.

3. Where’s Mycroft? An hour is too short a time to contain all of the subplots in A Study In Pink, and Mark Gatiss’s ambiguous Mycroft Holmes is a notable casualty, appearing only as a name on an email Sherlock sends out. His absence makes the world of the pilot feel much smaller and less eerie than the London of the aired version.

4. Less Troubled Hero: The Sherlock of the pilot isn’t exactly at home in society, but he’s not as arrogant or acerbic as his eventual characterization. He’s also less of a risk-taker. Jeff the cabbie has to drug him to take him (very unwillingly) to the scene of his attempted demise, and it’s only at the very end of the encounter that Sherlock chooses the game over self-preservation. The final version paints a far more cold-blooded and striking picture of the lengths Sherlock is willing to go to in an effort to satisfy his curiosity and win the game regardless of the risks to his own safety.

5. Missing Arc: The final moments of A Study in Pink contain a yelled reference to Jim Moriarty, the story’s link to the overall arc of the series as a whole. The pilot contains no such mention (or implication that the cabbie is working with anyone else), likely because in a series of six one-hour episodes, which was the original intention for the show, Moriarty wouldn’t have needed to be referenced that early.

Batman Shot Bonus: The pilot contains a shot of Sherlock on a roof while John looks up at him from the ground and magically cheesy music swells in the background. It’s amazing and incredible and absolutely should not have made it to the aired version (and thankfully didn’t), but you owe it to yourself not to miss it.