Saturday, February 02, 2013

THE SECRET FIEND by Shane Peacock

This is the fourth in Peacock's series about "the boy Sherlock Holmes," and since it's the first I've read, I can assure you that it can stand alone; however, I'm eager to read the series from the beginning.

Sherlock is fourteen years old in this book, and Disraeli has just become the first Jewish prime minister of England, a truly terrifying prospect to some of the ruling class. Social unrest abounds, with increasing demands for expanded voting rights and for feeding the desperately poor. The real terror begins when a mysterious creature, reminiscent of the Spring Heeled Jack of the Penny Dreadfuls, with red eyes and blue flames shooting from its mouth, begins randomly attacking the poor and other marginalized people, beginning with Sherlock's friend Beatrice. Sherlock has apparently decided to forgo sleuthing until he is an adult, but Beatrice more or less drags him into an investigation.

The historical details really make this book rich and enjoyable. 1868 London is beautifully described as Sherlock and his friends walk (not having the money for cabs) back and forth through every part of the city. The social unrest is woven neatly into the story, and if the solution is rather telegraphed, Sherlock's clever sleuthing makes up for it. The seemingly impossible villain is unmasked and Sherlock has another case under his belt.

Sherlock's development will be interesting to fans of Arthur Conan Doyle, as he attempts to shelve emotion in favor of logic and trains in martial arts with the apothecary. I found this a thoroughly enjoyable romp through 1868 London and in the mind of young Sherlock.

Source disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

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