Review

Black Ice: Sherlock Holmes: The Legend Begins

by Andrew Lane

Is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 19th-century Sherlock Holmes a bit stale for you? Upgrade to Andrew Lane’s Sherlock Holmes: the Legend Begins series. It features a teenage Sherlock doing what he does best --- solving crimes and taking names.

In Andrew Lane's BLACK ICE, Sherlock Holmes isn’t your average kid. For one, he’s already traveled the world, having survived a harrowing adventure in America. He is also a bit of a loner, even though he’s crashing at his Aunt and Uncle Holmes’ majestic country mansion. Sherlock has few friends except his American-born tutor, former bounty hunter Amyus Crowe, who teaches his protégé the ins and outs of deductive reasoning and Crowe’s daughter, Virginia. So when Sherlock’s absentee brother, civil servant Mycroft, summons his younger sibling to London, the lad jumps at the chance.

"No longer a middle-aged pipe smoker forever accompanied by Watson, Sherlock is a savvy teen who is seraching for himself; at the same time, he’s hunting down the truth as a super sleuth-in-training."

Little does Sherlock know, though, what awaits him and Crowe in the city of Big Ben, Queen Victoria, and Scotland Yard. When he visits Mycroft at his social club, he opens the door to find his befuddled brother poised over a dead body --- and holding a knife, no less. When Crowe and Sherlock search the room, they find no evidence of anyone else having entered. It seems that Mycroft did the dastardly deed…but could our hero’s only brother really kill a man in cold blood?

The police seem to think so, as they quickly haul Mycroft off to jail. Sherlock steadfastly refuses to believe this, especially since, if Mycroft were to be convicted at trial, he would be sentenced to death. Using the observational skills Crowe instilled in him, Sherlock sets out to unravel the mystery. Along the way, he engages with a vivid cast of characters, from a gang of feral children haunting the shadowy world beneath the bridges of London, to a traveling theater troupe that might contain more than its fair share of shady characters.

BLACK ICE reads like a novelization of a James Bond film. Sherlock flees from dangerous pursuers, ferreting out secrets from London to Moscow while solving crimes with his trademark insight. Hearts pounds as Sherlock wrangles his way out of a tight spot with a killer falcon or as menacing political schemers and spies endanger his life in a foreign land. Bond would be hard-pressed to keep up with Sherlock.

Andrew Lane places BLACK ICE against the imperialist background of 19th-century Great Britain. He examines the strained relationship between Great Britain and Russia, which has ramifications for Mycroft’s political career. Moreover, Sherlock and Mycroft’s father, who is an unseen character in BLACK ICE, is stationed in British-controlled India. Lane reminds readers that, despite Sherlock’s death-defying feats, real lives and the fate of nations are at stake.

BLACK ICE features a Sherlock Holmes updated for the 21st century. No longer a middle-aged pipe smoker forever accompanied by Watson, Sherlock is a savvy teen who is seraching for himself; at the same time, he’s hunting down the truth as a super sleuth-in-training. Either way, he’s definitely one hero readers will be eager to follow in any future adventure.

Reviewed by Carly Silver on January 7, 2013

Black Ice: Sherlock Holmes: The Legend Begins
by Andrew Lane