Death Cloud is the first in a series of books which will centre on the childhood of Sherlock Holmes -
From the press release - "Death Cloud" opens with Mycroft picking up Sherlock from a boys' school that has let out for summer break. Sherlock had been expecting his father, but the elder Holmes has just left for India as part of the British army. Sherlock's mother is too frail for him to live at home, so he is sent to live with an unfriendly aunt and uncle in the remote and sprawling Holmes Manor, staffed with an even less welcoming housekeeper. Being a teenager with nothing to do, Sherlock is destined to find trouble, and he does. Mycroft has hired his brother a tutor by the name of Amyus Crowe, who is American but nevertheless more Sherlockian than Sherlock himself as he counsels his student to "seek out information" and "collect it assiduously." That advice comes in handy when Sherlock, out mushroom collecting with his new teacher, happens upon a dead body. It's Crowe who teaches Sherlock how to deal with a body and who encourages observation as a methodology for solving crime.
Of course there's nothing new in this - it's always gone on (remember Speilberg's kiddie Holmes movie!) but this is the first time such a project's been officially sanctioned and to some it looks like milking rather than protecting the legacy. The claim has been made that author, Andrew Lane creates an authentic teenage Sherlock Holmes, but since Doyle's Sherlock was a fully formed adult character with adult flaws then there is no such thing as an authentic teenage Holmes. It doesn't matter how many other writers pen tales of Sherlock Holmes, and there have been some brilliant examples over the years, for these exist aside from Doyle's canon but these new Young Sherlock books, officially sanctioned by the Doyle estate, will forever be listed alongside the original stories, just in the way many claim the Young Bond series is now part of the 007 canon. The Doyle estate have also sanctioned Anthony Horowitz to write an all new Holmes novel but this work will feature the adult Holmes, set in period and written as if to follow on where Doyle left off. That doesn't trouble my sensibilities as much as transforming Holmes into a geeky kid.
|Holmes for grumpy old men|
And yet I contradict myself there because I've read and enjoyed many Sherlock Holmes stories not written by Doyle, most recently Sherlock Holmes and War of the Worlds by Manly and Wade Wellman. I think the thing that troubles me is that these Young Holmes books are being presented and marketed with the stamp of the Doyle estate, as if they have legitimate claim to be a part of the real Holmes canon, as if these are the definitive stories of Holmes before Doyle picked up the pen to chronicle the character's later years.
Still the fact is that the Young Adult book market is booming and there are those that claim these books will lead readers to discover the original stories. This can only be a good thing but what, I wonder, will a reader of this ultra modern prose make of the quaintly written originals?