All the world knows Sherlock Holmes – the man that is – but what lead a Victorian boy to become the original consulting detective? This question is what Andrew Lane attempts to unravel across a series of eight books beginning with this one.
Fourteen year-old Sherlock Holmes is glad to be leaving Deepdene School for Boys for the holidays but instead of returning home he is packed off to stay with an unknown Uncle Sherrinford and Aunt Anna. He strikes up an acquaintance with Matty Arnatt, an orphan of the same age, who has witnessed a mysterious cloud leaving a house where a man has just died, his body covered with boils.
Sherlock and his new tutor, Amyus Crowe, discover a similar corpse in the woods around Holmes Manor, and he determines to solve the mystery of the cloud of death.
Unlike the 1985 film “Young Sherlock Holmes” which includes a young Watson (although David Marcum has written this interesting piece which explains who that boy really was) there are no obvious contradictions to the canon. We discover that Sherlock’s middle name is Scott (at least I’ve never come across that before) and amongst many other references which Sherlockians will recognise there is a Mycroft who is already putting on weight and who says “I don’t know everything yet”.
The fact that so many things are new to Sherlock, including both London and trains, means that Lane can describe these in detail to the audience. I still can’t imagine how dirty and smelly the capital was at the time and continued to be long into the twentieth century.
The key quote that stuck out for me which will shape Sherlock as he matures is:
“You can deduce all you like, but it’s pointless with knowledge…Information is the foundation of all rational thought. Seek it out. Collect it assiduously. Stock the lumber room of your mind with as many facts as you can fit in there. Don’t attempt to distinguish between important facts and trivial facts: they’re all potentially important.”
Overall good clean fun and recommended as a Christmas present for any 11+ people in your life. They will learn a lot without realising it and may be encouraged to keep the GAD flag flying high for another generation.