Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Middle-Grade Review: In Search of Watson

A few years ago, my son Jamie discovered our huge volume of Sherlock Holmes stories and read the complete works of Arthur Conan Doyle from cover to cover.  He even lugged the encyclopedic-sized book through airports during our holiday trip to visit grandparents!  So, when he heard about a new series based on the original Sherlock Holmes’ stories, he couldn’t wait to read it.  Jamie read the first Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars book, The Fall of the Amazing Zalindas, written by husband and wife team Tracy Mack and Michael Citrin and was hooked on the series right away, but it’s taken me a few years to give it a try.  I recently read the third book in the series, In Search of Watson, and found out what I’d been missing.

The Baker Street Irregulars are a group of ragtag street urchins who help Mr. Holmes with his cases in 1890 London.  Pilar, a young Spanish girl who lives with her mother, helped the Irregulars on their last case and yearns to be one of them.  Here, she enters their hide-out home:

Pilar came to the wood slats that appeared to be a boarded-up window, gave the covert double-knock, and then pushed.  The boards were in fact a trapdoor which opened into the “Castle,” an abandoned carriage factory that was home to the Irregulars.  Pilar entered a cavernous room with a dirt floor and a catwalk framing its upper perimeter.  Two large wood doors that had been long sealed made up the far wall.  A formerly grand but now dilapidated coach that they’d recently named the “Grand Dame” sat on blocks in front of them.  In the center of the room a fire pit glowed.  Around it, most of the boys lounged.

Wiggins, the leader of the gang, stood by the fire in the midst of a tale, his hands flying and his copper eyes shining.  Pilar couldn’t help but notice how easily he became all the characters in his stories. 

“So Oz and me, we roped ‘im good.  I thought we were just goin’ to tie ‘im up, but Ozzie, he runs the rope into the gears and zip, that mad knife thrower was dragged across the ground and strung up like a Christmas goose in Coven’ Garden!”

Soon enough, the Irregulars are summoned to Sherlock Holmes as he begins the investigation of a murder at the British Museum Library.  He sends them off to follow up on various leads, as the mystery becomes more complex.  Things turn dangerous when Dr. Watson is kidnapped, and the Irregulars begin to suspect there may be a traitor in their midst.

It’s a fast-paced, intriguing mystery, filled with interesting characters. There’s even an extra section at the end of the novel called Facts and Practicals for the Aspiring Detective that includes bonus material related to the story – information on ciphers, the Tower of London, and the art of disguise in this one.  The series will appeal to young mystery lovers and may even lead them to read the original Sherlock Holmes stories.

195 pages, Scholastic

Accelerated Reader: Level 5.1, 4 points


Jan von Harz said...

So Jamie read all the Sherlock Holmes mysteries at what age? I have never read any. This series though definitely sounds fantastic. I love a good mystery and this is right up my alley. Thanks for the great review and for putting this on my radar.

Sue Jackson said...

Jan -

I think he was about 13!! Yes, he's always been an avid reader. I actually can't remember whether I've ever read a Sherlock Holmes story - I probably read one along the way sometime...