I don’t know about you, but I thoroughly enjoyed the recent BBC version of Sherlock Holmes, aired by PBS Masterpiece Mystery in the fall. The series was a great conversation piece with students in my library, once I told them about it. (No, I don’t think most teens follow Masterpiece Mystery as a rule!) Their middle school librarian was a huge fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle so I know students, now 10th and 11th graders, who have read his Sherlock Holmes novels and stories. The BBC’s 21st century, technologically savvy update appealed to them.
Of course, Sherlock is frequently incorporated into modern fiction. Laurie King’s Mary Russell novels, beginning with The Beekeeper’s Apprentice (St. Martin’s, 1994), and The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, a short story collection highlighting the supernatural edited by John Joseph Adams (Night Shade, 2009) are two I recommend to teens. One can only imagine the mashup Mr. Grahame-Smith might concoct using the character. Someone must be working on one!
Today’s book has generated a lot of attention in recent weeks. Bram Stoker and Arthur Conan Doyle are the players this time.
Adult/High School–The Sherlockian alternates between 1900 and 2010, with two mysterious deaths, and two amateur sleuths–Arthur Conan Doyle and Harold White–who believe that they can solve the murders simply by applying the science of deduction. Arthur recruits his friend, the not-yet-famous writer Bram Stoker, to fulfill the Watson role after becoming the target of a letter bomb. Meanwhile, Harold is proud to be the youngest member of the Holmes society, The Baker Street Irregulars, and is eager to attend the breakthrough lecture of a lifetime: Arthur Conan Doyle’s famously missing diary has been discovered, and its secrets will finally be revealed. That is, until the historian who made the discovery is found murdered and the diary is missing again. Harold, along with plucky reporter Sarah, uses his own deductive logic to attempt to solve the murder and locate the diary. The convention of parallel stories is appealing as each plays off the other, with both detectives finding themselves in more dangerous situations than anticipated. Humor, especially the banter between Doyle and Stoker, is refreshing throughout. As the stories come to unexpected resolutions, the respective sleuths find their worlds irrevocably changed. Without the Sherlock references, this may not be the most compelling mystery, but any reader curious about Sherlock Holmes won’t be able to resist following up with the originals. (Chapter headings feature tantalizing quotes from various Holmes tales.) Any teen who is already a fan of Sherlock Holmes will revel in this homage to the master detective.–Priscille Dando, Robert E. Lee High School, Fairfax County, VA