October 15, 2015
Death Cloud by Andrew Lane
Death Cloud: The Legend Begins
by Andrew Lane
Farrar Straus Giroux
I tend to have mixed feelings about the “well-known literary figure as a teen” books but something about this one intrigued me. Maybe it was just the thought of Sherlock Holmes before he was a know-it-all. Yes, I do actually like Sherlock Holmes but sometimes . . . sometimes I’d just like it if he would make a mistake.
As a young teen, Sherlock is pretty much a mistake looking for a place to happen. He is book smart but people clueless. I get the feeling that part of the problem is that he’s never had the chance to make friends. Let’s just say that he and his siblings have never been encouraged to fraternize with the rabble.
But that’s exactly what he does on this particular summer break when he isn’t allowed to go home. His father, a military man, has been shipped out to India. His older brother Mycroft is already employed in London. His mother isn’t taking things well. So Sherlock is shipped off to an aunt and uncle he’s never met.
Although he gets in trouble for striking up a friendship with an orphan who lives on a narrow boat, he and Matty hit it off. Matty may not have much formal education but he’s naturally observant and proves an able ally when Sherlock decides to investigate two deaths that the local authorities first mistake for plague.
Lane has created a believable teen version of Holmes. Already some of his quirks are evident and it is easy to see how some of the others will develop. The characters are all well-developed and believable although sometimes the villain seems over-the-top. That said, the story is a wonderful mystery with a healthy dose of adventure. There are hints of romance but I don’t remember anything more than a bit of hand holding, and if you can’t hold hands when you think you are both about to die, when can you do it?
If you have a middle grader who likes Sherlock Holmes or anything set in this period, share this book with them today.