On the cover:
I can't get over the idea of Sherlock Holmes sporting Justin Bieber hair.
HOWEVER. I've heard complaints that he looks "too emo", and I'm okay with that. Because Sherlock Holmes is totes emo, minus the crying.
Anyway. On to Death Cloud!
1868. When school lets out for summer break, fourteen-year-old Sherlock Holmes gets shipped off to live in the country with some relatives. It promises to be a boring and -- due to the borderline un-cordiality of the familial relationships -- excessively uncomfortable summer, and all Sherlock wants is to go to London to stay with his older brother Mycroft. Barring that, he just wants to be left alone. (<--See? Emo!)
But that's before he makes a friend, before the mysterious deaths, before he meets his American tutor, and before he meets his American tutor's daughter (<--Hubba hubba).
I spent the first 150 pages of this book being irrationally irritated. I knew I was being irrational, but that made me all the more irritated. Because, the death cloud? If you've read any Sherlock Holmes, it's SO, SO OBVIOUS:
No, all he saw was a dark stain the size of a large dog that seemed to drift from an open window like smoke, but smoke that moved with a mind of its own, pausing for a moment and then flowing sideways to a drainpipe where it turned and slid up towards the roof. Hunger forgotten, Matthew watched openmouthed as the cloud drifted over the sharp edge of the roof tiles and vanished out of sight.
I had it then, on page two, but if you need a bit more of a hint: The victims are covered in red welts and there's a mysterious yellow powder found on all of the bodies. See, I know I was being irrational, because the target audience for the book is OBVIOUSLY not me. Despite that, I was really happy when Our Intrepid Heroes figure that puzzle out about a third of the way in. After that, I was pretty much* completely won over.
Andrew Lane's version of Sherlock Holmes is so focused on the art of deduction that he hasn't really thought about the importance of knowledge, and I liked that. It was a cool facet of the character to play with, and so his Sherlock feels familiar, but still original: He isn't just a shorter version of his adult self. Even with the differences, of course, there are plenty of A-HA moments** for Holmes fans:
Matty kept asking questions, and Sherlock found that he kept going back and telling bits of the story again, going off at a tangent to explain other things and generally not getting to the point. He wasn't a natural storyteller, and for a moment wished that he had someone who could take the facts in his head and set them out in a way that made sense.
I loved that the action sequences have consequences. You know how in most movies, chase scenes treat extras as obstacles, and we never really worry about what happens to them? Well, in Death Cloud, there are descriptions of lasting property damage, and even more unusually, innocent people die. Not people who are integral to the plot, or even connected, but completely random pedestrians. That was awesome. (Not that they died. You know what I mean.)
It won't make every Holmes fan happy, but I liked it, and I'm looking forward to the sequels. I could see it going over well with younger fans of the Montmorency series, or even with Alex Rider fans who're open to reading historicals.
*There's some clumsy expository dialogue, but not enough to be offensive.
**Watch for the description of Amyus Crowe's living room.
Book source: ILLed through my library.