by Judith Hayn
Lane, Andrew. (2011). Rebel Fire Sherlock Holmes: The Legend Begins. New York, NY: Farrar Strauss Giroux.
Imagine Sherlock Holmes as a fourteen-year old who is growing up in England just after the Civil War. What if a reader had a chance to peer into the great fictional detective’s mind and soul as he learns the skills that will make him the sleuth he will become? Andrew Lane continues Sherlock’s coming of age (Death Cloud, 2011) series with this sequel, published in England as Red Leech. Mystery and adventure fans will appreciate this page-turner as the action takes off like a rocket from the Prologue to the last chapter.
Sherlock’s tutor is still Amyus Crowe, who at the instigation of elder brother Mycroft Holmes, teaches the teen to view his surrounding with the eyes of an observant scientist and to think logically while analyzing what he sees. John Wilkes Booth seems to have survived the carnage of his supposed capture and death and is being used as a figurehead by a group of nefarious Americans who want to re-establish the Confederacy. The villains kidnap Matty, Sherlock’s best friend, in order to discover what the English know about the scheme. In order to stymie the plot, Mycroft sends Sherlock to the states with Crowe and the schoolmaster’s attractive daughter Virginia.
Lane, in his Author’s Note, gives the historical and scientific sources he used in creating the young Sherlock. He explains that he wants readers to see where the teen might have acquired some of the characteristics that became such a part of the adult Holmes. In this case, a violinist is on the ship that takes the trio to America, and he gives Sherlock the lessons that introduce him to his favorite instrument that later soothes his troubled spirit.
Violence abounds in this historical period piece while the characters emerge as heroes and cads, and the setting rings true whether in England or in America. Getting to know Sherlock Holmes as a lad is a worthwhile trip indeed—even if the reader is not a fan of Doyle’s detective.
Dr. Judith A. Hayn is an Associate Professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
This article is part of a series from the Special Interest Group Network on Adolescent Literature (SIGNAL).