________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 4. . . .September 25, 2009


Vanishing Girl. (The Boy Sherlock Holmes).

Shane Peacock.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2009.
310 pp., hardcover, $21.99.
ISBN 978-0-88776-852-1.

Subject Heading:
Holmes, Sherlock (Fictitious character)-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-10 / Ages 9-15.

Review by David Ward.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



The words are spit out.

“Should you be referring to a certain blackguard who roams the streets at night with a group of ne’er-do-wells who prey upon the London populace, I would advise against it. I could produce these villains before he or Lestrade were even on their trail.”

“I am helping Master Malefactor to…

” “He is a thug and he shall remain one.”

“I can change him.”

“And we shall all fly to the moon one day.”

“He understands misery. He knows the sort of pain people endure in the workhouses.”


“You don’t know him, Sherlock. His life fell apart when he was small…”

“A story meant for the pages of the agony columns, I’m sure. I prefer Samuel Smiles and instructive novels…where folks rise from their troubles, where they choose the right path, not evil. He is a rat. And he tried to kill me.”

Thus, the young Sherlock Holmes describes his arch rival, Malefactor, in Vanishing Girl, Peacock’s latest addition of the series. As with his first two cases, Peacock has skilfully recreated the sinister world of Victorian London in which Sherlock Holmes was originally written. In this particular case, Holmes is captivated by the mysterious disappearance of Victoria Rathbone, the daughter of wealthy parents living in London. While the police, led by the pompous Lestrade Sr., try desperately to find the girl, Holmes uses his burgeoning skills to take in the more subtle clues, such as a watermark on the paper left by the kidnappers. He takes a wild train ride into the countryside, barely escaping the clutches of a guard and, at one point, ending up on the top of the train and balancing like “Blondin.” The clues he discovers at St. Neots both complicate and confuse his understanding of the case. It is when Holmes uncovers the secret past of Victoria Rathbone’s mother that he suspects a deeper duplicity of the facts. The potential of ghosts and ferocious beasts guarding the kidnapped girl help make the ending to this story a classic Sherlock Holmes adventure.

     Peacock has done his research. Clearly he has been to the places he writes about as mentioned in the “Acknowledgements.” Further, one cannot help but appreciate his close reading of the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Peacock understands Holmes. Even a cursory consideration of the Hound of the Baskervilles makes this all the more poignant. Both Peacock’s Holmes and Doyle’s Holmes traverse the city and countryside to find clues, make extensive use of the powers of observation, and utilize the most infuriating skill of all: keeping the facts to himself until the end! Vanishing Girl is a story in which Holmes is powerfully developed. The reader discovers the origins of his learning self-defense and his infatuation with scientific “potions” (in this case, opium) to help solve crimes. Readers of the first two stories will appreciate the developing relationship between Holmes and Irene (not a happy one) and his deeper hatred of Malefactor. What a pleasurable, authentic read. This book (and series) would make an excellent unit for mysteries studies, story writing unit, or young adult readings of Victorian England.

Highly Recommended.

David Ward is a children’s author and assistant professor at Oregon’s Willamette University.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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