October 31, 2012

Becoming Holmes: The Boy Sherlock Holmes, His Final Case

by Shane Peacock
Tundra Books
245 pp.
Ages 10-14
October 2012

It was just a year ago when I reviewed the fifth book in Shane Peacock's The Boy Sherlock Holmes series, The Dragon Turn (Tundra, 2011) and bemoaned the announcement that the sixth book would conclude the series.  And here it is, The Boy Sherlock Holmes, His Final Case, with the incongruous title of Becoming Holmes, suggesting more of a beginning than an end.  But, Shane Peacock effectively concludes his series by setting up the key pieces of Sherlock Holmes' life as laid out by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

In 1870, Sherlock, now sixteen years of age, is overwhelmed by melancholy: Charles Dickens has just died; Sherlock's father has passed from a stroke; Sigerson Bell, Sherlock's mentor, is very ill and worsening; Irene Doyle, his love interest, is in the United States; Beatrice Leakie, a dear friend, is seeing someone else; and Prime Minister Disraeli, a half-Jew like Sherlock, has been defeated.  The only solace for Sherlock is his reconnection with his older brother, Mycroft, an employee at the Treasury.  When visiting his brother at the Treasury, Sherlock discovers that Grimsby, one of Malefactor's lieutenants, has somehow secured a key position there, under the alias of Ronald Loveland.

Although threatened by his nemesis, Malefactor, to desist from pursuing enquiries which might involve him, Sherlock discovers that Malefactor, who is also known as Moriarty, contrived a blackmail scheme to position himself for greater power.  When Malefactor's henchman, Grimsby, becomes greedy, leading to an accidental death and then murder, Sherlock is determined to fight evil by any means possible.

So, Shane Peacock's Sherlock Holmes proclaims that he is
"at the service of anyone who is wronged, whether they be rich or poor, Jew or Gentile, Englishman or otherwise" (pg. 101)
while also declaring that he would work towards
"the complete destruction of Malefactor, his lieutenants, and all his future schemes, his entire career." (pg. 102)
He even recognizes that in the future he would need
"an upstairs flat of my own, with a companion and a housekeeper." (pg. 113)
The Boy Sherlock Holmes is becoming the famous Sherlock Holmes, just as Shane Peacock's title announces.  And the intricate plot of Becoming Holmes is just as involved as the crimes that the mature Holmes solves.  There are villains, victims, innocents, allies, loves and mentors.  There are obvious motives, false leads, guilty secrets and cryptic feelings. There is compassion, confusion, affection and justice.  While I had some difficulties in discriminating between various unidentified characters in the first chapter before their stories begin to converge and revolve around Sherlock, the storyline did not suffer for this, as clarification and illumination were forthcoming, as they always are in good mysteries. 

Becoming Holmes may reveal much about how the boy becomes the famous detective but at its core it is a rich mystery that needs solving so that evil may be punished and the righteous protected.  Fortunately Sherlock Holmes capably solves the mystery,  equipping him well to re-emerge in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's first Sherlock Holmes novel, A Study in Red (1877).

The book trailer for Becoming Holmes, produced by Aaron Peacock and uploaded to YouTube on October 12, 2012 can be viewed here on my Book Trailers page or directly on The Boy Sherlock Holmes webpage.

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