Sherlock Holmes for kids

2010-09-29 00:00

SHERLOCK Holmes still exerts a strange fascination a century after his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, pensioned him off to the countryside to keep bees. There have been biographies, pastiche novels, films, television series, plays, museums and solemn pilgrimages to the Reichenbach Falls to see where he famously didn’t die.

Now, with the authorisation of Conan Doyle’s estate, Andrew Lane has set out to introduce the great detective to a new generation. Three novels for the kids’ market are planned, taking young Sherlock through public school and university to his first meeting with Dr Watson. In this, the first in the series, Holmes is 14 and an unhappy schoolboy, taken off to unknown relatives for a holiday by his already adult brother Mycroft.

The relatives are gruesome, their housekeeper is worse, and bodies keep cropping up. But Sherlock enlists the help of Matty, a prototype of a Baker Street irregular, as he tackles the creepy (and creaky) Baron Maupertius, whose name will be familiar to Holmes buffs who are obviously also expected to have some fun with young Sherlock. Sherlock also has an American tutor, and the tutor has a pretty, tomboy daughter.

The intention is good but the plot is unconvincing — the origin of the “death cloud” was pretty elementary for a start. The young Sherlock seems to owe something to a certain Harry Potter : nasty relatives, horrible villains, teen angst and powerful self-reliance included. I suppose it’s entertaining enough if you overlook some alarmingly anachronistic language, and maybe it will bring a new generation to 221B Baker Street, though I have my doubts.

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