Review: Death Cloud, Andrew Lane

Andrew Lane revisits the theme of young Sherlock Holmes, creating a character pieced together from the few clues left by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  While the book is slow to start, it picks up the pace 2/3rds of the way through, rallying at the end.  Lovers of Sherlock Holmes will enjoy this story, especially if they can suspend belief here and there.

We follow a 14 year old Sherlock over the course of his summer break and through an unlikely set of events that are to act as the catalysts that form who he will become. In one summer, under the tutelage of American Amyus Crowe, he learns to observe, deduct, and think. He is exposed to bare-knuckle boxing, fencing, and bee keeping; He gets his first taste of hand-writing analysis; He meets his red-headed love (Virginia); is exposed to laudanum (opiates) - which he does not like; finds a Watson-esque side kick (Matty); finds a Moriarty-like nemesis (The Baron); gets glimmers as to who his brother really is; and survives four or five attempts on his life.  All the while, still maintaining the awkwardness of a 14 year old boy.

While the action and adventure propels the last 1/3rd of the book, some of which nags at the edges of belief, the first 2/3rds of the book gives us glimmers into the adult Sherlock Holmes. Quotes like, "If you haven’t got enough facts to come to a conclusion, then you go out and get more facts,” and “The collection of proper information depends primarily on the proper phrasing of the question, reveal the roots for his later machinations. In the end, our young heroes are able to best their adult captors both physically and mentally, even when grossly outnumbered. 

This is an entertaining read, especially for those who enjoy Doyle's Holmes, with several threads of the mystery left dangling for the next book.  It will be interesting to see how Lane develops young Holmes. It's unfortunate that he felt the need to introduce so many of the influences into this first book (at times, it felt a little like being force fed). It would've been much nicer to have these threads evolve a bit more organically. Then again, if this is only to be a three book series (?), I can understand the desire to impart as much information as possible.

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