CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 2 . . . . September 14, 2007
Sherlock Holmes has long been a household name. Even in classrooms today, it is not uncommon to hear of an inquisitive child described as being a ‘young Sherlock.’ Movies have been made of the famous detective, and several television series continue to run internationally. There is an attractive mystique to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s mysteries that have captivated readers since the late 1880’s. Fortuitously, I recently finished reading the complete Sherlock Holmes series and was intrigued to see the publication announcement for Eye of the Crow. The original stories pull the reader deeply into England of the past and, particularly, the many forms of darkness and “skullduggery” that seeped through London as eerily as the fog. I always approach re-creations with some hesitancy. Done poorly, they can deprive the next generation of readers of the depth and significance of a literary work. Done rightly, a re-creation can shed new light, illuminating hidden and untold elements of the original storyworld. Thankfully, Shane Peacock has created the latter.
Eye of the Crow not only honors the intentions of Doyle’s storyworld, but it also extends the life of the intrepid detective by exploring the early years of Holmes. Doyle’s mysteries left many pieces untold, as Dr. Watson so freely tells us, and Shane Peacock has skillfully, deductively, produced a book that rings true with our understanding of the man, Mr. Sherlock Holmes. Peacock explores questions such as: where did Holmes get his powers of reasoning? What is the origin of his cyclical melancholy? Why does the man, Holmes, so willingly “play” with darkness and yet hate it so much in the same instance?
This is not a lighthearted story. True to form, it is dark and brooding, like the Holmes we know. Yet somehow, the author has managed to balance the necessary elements of stark London reality and youthful exuberance, hope and love. The young Holmes has a stronger seed of hope in his heart, much of it brought on by his love for his parents and a young girl, Irene. We also see, perhaps, the beginnings of another character in Malefactor, potentially the infamous Professor Moriarty.
Eye of the Crow is written in the present tense, a style that surprised me and took some getting used to. Nonetheless, as the book progressed, the perspective gradually made more sense as it brought me closer to the unknown Holmes. Mystery lovers will likely find this book hard to put down. For a first in a series, Mr. Peacock has his work cut out for him, that of making each successive story as clever, interpretive, and skillfully done as Eye of the Crow.
David Ward is a children’s author and researcher at the University of British Columbia.
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